Confessions of a snorerComment on this story
London - The nocturnal ritual would usually keep to the same pattern. First, as I sprawled in bed and my nasal rumbles began to fill the room, my dear wife would make a gentle request that I change position.
So I would mutter an apology and turn over. But to no avail, for the rolling thunder would only intensify.
Further spousal imprecations would follow, each more desperate than the last. Yet nothing could halt the roaring adenoidal storm. Finally, as my snoring reached its crescendo, I would be expelled from the marital bed and forced to spend the rest of the night in the spare room.
This exasperating routine went on for years. Somehow we were both infused with the foolish hope that one night the snoring might cease. But it never did. Eventually we gave up the battle and agreed that I should permanently sleep in my own separate bedroom, which was soon christened ‘the hutch of shame’.
Sadly our experience is shared by millions of other couples in Britain, with inveterate snorers like me causing widespread frustration and fatigue. To misquote Oscar Wilde, insomnia is the curse of the non-snoring classes.
According to researchers, no fewer than 40 percent of men over 30 snore, with that proportion rising significantly as we get older and heavier. But husbands generally have to endure much less than wives do, for women are half as likely to snore as men.
For some, the phenomenon of heavy snoring is simply intolerable. In an interview recently, the Olympic heroine Dame Kelly Holmes admitted that she had no patience with us snort merchants.
“It winds me up so much,” declared the double gold medallist. She wasn’t even talking about partners in bed. So profound is her hatred of the habit that, in the past, she has woken up “countless” snorers on planes when she is travelling.
“Now, I’ll either knock past someone deliberately, or tell the hostess to wake them otherwise I’m going to smother them,” she added.
Well, I wouldn’t last long in the presence of the great dame. Those Olympian forearms would soon be smacking the back of my nodding head once I’d settled into my seat.
To give you an indication of how loud my snoring is, I was chatting to a neighbour the other day and he mentioned, to my embarrassment, that he could actually hear me from his garden early in the morning - even though I sleep on the third floor of our house.
Sometimes, in my defence, I say that I come from a family of heavy snorers. Some of my male relatives could have competed for Team GB if snoring were an Olympic sport.
Even in my youth, I could easily wreck the peace of the night. On one occasion, I went to a student party at a friend’s house in Brighton and, once the drink had run out, a large group of us bedded down in sleeping bags on the floor of an upper room.
The next morning, I woke up on the floor of the kitchen, still in my sleeping bag. When I asked my friend how on earth I had got there, he told me that the other party-goers were so fed up with my snoring that they lifted me up and put me downstairs. I had slept through the whole thing.
The British Snoring Association, a body which sounds as if it should be affiliated to the Liberal Democrats, explains that snoring is “caused by turbulence in the airway” during breathing.
This turbulence results from a partial blockage that can be ‘located anywhere from the tip of the nose to the vocal chords’. Apparently women are afflicted less because their tissue is softer and therefore less inclined to cause restrictions.
But snoring is not just a matter of physical structure. It can also be exacerbated by self-indulgent behaviour, like drinking too much, over-eating and taking no exercise, which is no doubt why the super-fit Kelly Holmes is so intolerant, and why I, as immobile as a stone on Easter Island, am so prone to the problem.
Over the years, my wife and I have tried many solutions - on top of the ear plugs that she still wears even though I sleep in a different room.
I have fixed nasal strips across the bridge of my nose, which were supposed to help me breathe more easily but did nothing except make me look like I had been in a fight.
I have put special drops down my nostrils and sprays in the back of my throat. I have used special pillows, tried sleeping upright and listened to meditative music - all methods that failed. The roaring beast will not be conquered.
Separate quarters is the only approach that has worked, at least in terms of allowing us both to sleep.
My wife has been remarkably tolerant, but I have to confess that my snoring has played a hugely disruptive role in our lives. Because of our need for separate rooms, we have not stayed with any friends for more than a decade. It is just too embarrassing to insist that we cannot sleep in the same bed.
Recently, we drove back through the night from North Wales to our home in Margate, just so we did not inflict my racket on our hosts. Decisions over accommodation are always swayed by my snoring. A few years ago, we were thinking of moving from our terrace house to a flat in Canterbury, but then recognised that the more confined space, even with two bedrooms, would serve only as a ghastly echo chamber.
It is the same story with hotels. Now, we hardly ever travel anywhere because we always have to book two hotel rooms - which is prohibitively expensive outside the depths of winter.
We did find one answer, however, in the South of France, at an apartment block with a set of rooms designed for a huge continental family. At least here my wife could be 20 yards and three doors away from me at night.
Our strange habits can be the source of surprise to others. Last year, I had to give a talk in Knutsford, Cheshire, and we booked into a nearby hotel, with, as usual, separate rooms.
“You’ve got the same surname - are you related?” asked the puzzled receptionist. “Actually we’ve been married for 16 years, but we don’t want to rush into anything too hastily,” I replied with a laconic grin.
I could take the ultimate step by having an operation on my nose, just as the Labour leader Ed Miliband did last year. But there is always a small risk with invasive surgery, and, besides, I gather the success rate is not that high. Indeed, judging by the way he still speaks, the operation on Red Ed’s nasal passage hardly seems to have worked.
My scepticism over surgery was confirmed for me earlier this year when we were staying in January at a wonderful hotel in the Loire Valley.
I told the owner the reason for our separate rooms - and he quickly replied with a strong warning against having any operation to cure my snoring. He had suffered from the same problem, had gone under the knife, and the result had been blinding headaches and facial pain. His snoring remained as bad as ever.
So my wife and I will have to continue our eccentric lifestyle, with our separate beds and permanent nasal accompaniment. And I will just have to hope that I do not run into Dame Kelly Holmes. - Daily Mail