THE BLOG

Snoring Is a Feminist Issue

24/11/2014 14:23 GMT | Updated 24/01/2015 10:59 GMT

It's the middle of the night, the alarm will be erupting in four hours, it's an important day ahead, the children have finally gone to sleep and the neighbours' teenager's rock band practice has finally ended. But all you can hear are the guttural fricatives of your partner beside you. They're not even rhythmic so it's not like you can get used to it. Sometimes the noise is a gentle bilabial trill, the lips only gently parting, then it's all quiet, then suddenly there is a crescendo from the throat, so forceful that you have to check it is actually them you went to bed with and not a giant boar.

I am talking about the hell that is someone else's snoring. As well as sounding like a pig in the room, it also seems to be the elephant in the room. A survey out this week conducted jointly by YouGov and Snoreeze, has revealed that 93% of women in relationships say their partner snores. Three quarters of them complain it affects their life in some negative way.

Which begs the question, why are women taking this lying down? (boom boom). When I've found myself subjected to a boyfriend's sinus acrobatics in stereo, I've taken my slumber elsewhere. I prefer to start my working day without looking like I've gone two rounds with Muhammed Ali.

Once, on a five-day break with one particularly nasally-challenged ex, I paid for a separate room on day three just to get some catch-up. It saved the holiday, but oh the protests! Accusations of neglect; complaints of lost intimacy; repeated questioning of 'what is wrong?' There was no grudge on my behalf though. I was perfectly chirpy and still in love (just). The problem wasn't his snoring, but the fact that separate sleeping is seen as such a taboo. Mainly, I should add, by men.

A friend recently told me how she too misses the quality restorative sleep she used to enjoy before she moved in with the boyf. The pair are blessed with a spare room but the few times she has used it, he complains that it 'isn't natural' for young, fresh, loved-up couples to sleep apart.

It sounds to me like he may have confused what is 'natural' with what we have made into a societal norm. Did you know that humans are the only animal to sleep and have sex in the same place? (Does your dog ever look like he got a bad night's sleep?) If my friend's bloke is so concerned with what is 'natural' perhaps he should read about the benefits of sleeping according to one's circadian rhythm. That is, falling asleep when you're tired, not going to bed and waiting to fall asleep because any minute now your partner's going to thud down beside you and wake you, just as soon as he's done with that one last episode of CSI.

It is hardly surprising that men don't appreciate the magnitude of REM interuptus. Multiple studies show that women sleep more lightly than men and find it harder to get back to sleep once woken. (Such as a paper by Austrian researchers called Sleep and Biological Rhythms and reported on by various media). Also, sixty per cent of men, compared to forty per cent of women over the age of 50 snore. Some men even think snoring is funny. Another ex in my collection used to play back the highlights from his 'snoring app' recording to his flat mate. They would roar with laughter at each crescendo.

The sleep-deprived need to get tougher. For starters, I demand a drop-down box on Internet dating profiles to forewarn whether a potential match is a snorer. We can specify non-smoker, why not non-snorer? We get a heads-up if a potential match is 'athletic' or have 'a few extra pounds' or if they are a 'social drinker' or 'drink heavily'. But we will never know if a night in their boudoir will cost us our productivity the next day until we've had a test drive.

Arianna Huffington once said that 'sleep is the next feminist issue.' She was referring to the fact that women tend to deal with young children in the night more than men. But the same can be said of snoring. Of course, many men are also the victim of a female's nocturnal percussion but statistically women get the duffer deal on sleeping.

This week's poll also disclosed that 87% of women have tried shaking, nudging or kicking their beloved snorer. Nine per cent admitted that they'd considered putting a pillow over their partner's face. (now that's good for intimacy.) The survey was endorsed by the manufacturers of the snoring product Snoreeze. It's a nice idea to take some medicine so we can sleep in each other's arms (I've never understood how that's possible anyway without getting pins and needles). But it is not helpful to perpetuate social rules on what constitutes a strong or loving relationship. Great if you can sleep in harmony but there are many more facets to love and partnership than lying next to each other unconscious. The only selfish person in a discussion about separate beds is the one who refuses to acknowledge what a serious issue sleep deprivation can be.

Helen Croydon is author of Screw The Fairytale: A Modern Guide to Sex and Love (John Blake Publishing)