From Snoring to Stealing Covers: Ways to Cope With Your Partner’s Annoying Sleep Habits
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Although love may be in the air (and the bedroom) for Valentine’s Day, it’s not always roses and Hershey’s kisses. Most of us who’ve shared the bed with a partner know that when the lights go out, our journey to dreamland can be abruptly halted by their actions. We’re talking about snoring, tossing and turning, sleeping with the TV or light on, stealing the covers, and more than a dozen other potentially irksome habits.
Sleepopolis surveyed 281 people to learn more about couple sleep habits and annoyances. There’s nothing like getting in the February theme of romance like focusing on irritations that lead to sleep deprivation, right? And while most people generally opted to share a bed with their partner — and enjoyed doing it, too — they weren’t without their complaints.
For one, 46.62 percent of people don’t have similar sleep habits to their partners, which naturally leads to some complaints, particularly where bedtime and wake up times are involved — but more on that in a bit.
We polled about annoying sleep habits back in 2022, and snoring was the uncontested number one nuisance — this year, snoring was unseated by less than a percentage point thanks to lovebirds frustrated with partners who don’t go to bed at the same time as they do. Snoring was next in line, followed by blanket hogging, noisy early risers, and significant others that get up often throughout the night. While those were the front runners, there were plenty of runner ups — take a look for yourself.
I also had one person tell me offline their bedroom pet peeve was their partner using their pillow as a plate for eating pizza — but I think that problem calls for another article in itself.
So what do we do if our nearest and dearest is a bedroom menace? For this one, I not only did my research, but consulted with Dr. Mary Ellen Wells, the director and associate professor for Neurodiagnostics and Sleep Science at the University of North Carolina.
“At least 1 in 3 Americans do not get enough sleep — that’s 1/3 of our US population that are sleep deprived!” said Dr. Wells. “[The] CDC recognizes insufficient sleep as a ‘public health epidemic.’ And these numbers are probably conservative.”
Although some of us may think we’re never the snoring culprit and it’s always the other person, research shows nearly half of us (45%) snore at some point in our sleep. So instead of pointing fingers, let’s look at solutions for this top annoying sleep habit.
Depending on whether you’re a heavy sleeper or a light sleeper (meaning you easily wake up to noise/movement or not), it may come down to when you go to bed. If you’re a heavy sleeper and don’t wake up to your partner snoring — rather, you can’t fall asleep because they’re already snoring — it’s a good idea to try going to bed before them. However, if you’re waking up to them snoring in the night, you can try earplugs, white noise, or listen to music as you fall asleep. This can provide your mind with other sounds to focus on and help you drift away to snooze land.
I’ve personally also heard rave reviews about using nose strips at night to prevent snoring. These are drug-free, small strips you simply stick on your nose to promote airflow and relieve congestion. One Amazon reviewer said the product made them “go from Darth Vader back to normal.” A lot of others agreed it changed their snoring habits in a great way. However, other reviewers complained of finding the strips on their pillows in the morning or, on the other hand, said they struggled to take them off in the morning.
Oftentimes, it’s better to tackle the root of the problem though. Snoring could be a side effect of another issue that can be fixed. Some common causes of snoring are:
- Weight gain. Gaining weight can cause the tissue in your throat to grow, which can lead to snoring. Along with being healthier overall, research shows losing weight and maintaining a healthy BMI can minimize snoring.
- Smoking. Studies show smoking increases your chances of snoring. Snoring therapists say smoking cigarettes inflames your airways and encourages mucus production, upping your chances of snoring. Because of this, it’s been reported people who smoke are twice as likely to snore than people who don’t.
- Alcohol. Doctors say it doesn’t matter if you have a few sips before bed or a few glasses, it can all lead to a full night of snores. Research shows alcohol relaxes the muscles in your nose, neck, and back mouth — which leads to snoring as your air passages become blocked. It’s recommended you swap out the alcohol before bed with some chamomile tea instead.
- Sleeping position. The position in which you sleep can also influence your snoring habits. Back sleeping is commonly associated with snoring, as your tongue can more easily move into your throat and compress your airways, leading to the unwanted noises. However, some people report snoring more when they’re sleeping on their side, so it could be something to experiment with and see what brings the best results.
- Nasal issues. There could be underlying health issues causing you to snore. Nasal issues, like allergies, congestion, sinus obstructions, a deviated septum, or illness can all be problems that keep air from going into your nose — causing you to snore. Along with identifying medication that could help these problems, it could be good to consult with your doctor to see what other remedial options are available.
“It is common for people coming in for a sleep study to tell us they are only there because their partner brought their sleep issue to their attention,” said Dr. Wells. “It’s often the partner that observes pauses in breathing throughout the night, while the sleeping person has no idea! If you are regularly disturbed by your partner’s sleep, it is important to have an open discussion with your partner, plus to recognize that a visit to their doctor is likely in order.”
Most of us have been there. You wake up in the middle of the night freezing. You drowsily look and feel around to realize you no longer have ownership of your covers. Instead, your partner is happily snuggled up in them like a human burrito. Okay, I’ll admit, I myself am often guilty of being the bedding bandit. So whether you’re the problem (like me) or are dealing with a blanket thief — here are some tips to sleep in blanket harmony.
- Talk to your partner. Sometimes people have no idea they’re stealing the covers and simply making them aware of the issue can go a long way. Or talking to them about it can help identify sleeping problems, like they’re too cold during the night and need a thicker blanket altogether.
- Tuck yourself in. When you’re going to bed, try tucking your side of the sheets under your body or the side of the mattress. Depending on how much of a strongarm your partner is in the night, this could prevent them from snagging the covers away from you.
- Try the Scandinavian Method. This consists of using two separate duvets or blankets instead of one at night. That way, you and your partner both have your own bedding to have in your control. This also allows you to choose a blanket that works best for your personal needs, like if you want a thicker one to sleep warmer or prefer a certain material. My coworker Amelia tried this method and said there’s no going back after reaping its benefits.
Tossing And Turning
Have you ever been in the middle of a fantastic dream just to be disturbed by your partner tossing and turning? Sure, it may happen here and there, but if it’s a consistent problem, you may want to invest in some changes.
- Upgrading your mattress. If you’re feeling your partner’s movements at night, your current mattress may be too small for both of you, have too high of motion transfer (how movement carries across the bed), or bad edge support (meaning the perimeter of the bed doesn’t support weight well, so you tend to both sleep in the center). It could be worth investing in a bigger or better mattress. You can start by looking at options in our roundup for the best mattresses for couples.
- Having comfortable (bed)ding. Your partner could be tossing and turning because they’re simply not comfortable. Finding the right mattress for your sleeping style is crucial, as everyone needs a different firmness level and feel based on their sleeping position and body type. Is your mattress too firm or too soft? Are you sinking into it too much? Or perhaps your comforter/duvet is too heavy or too light? These are questions you can go over to identify what products you can swap out or upgrade to improve your partner’s sleeping patterns — which will in turn improve yours.
- Sleeping separately. Although dubbed a “sleep divorce,” sleeping in separate rooms is nothing to be ashamed of — especially if it helps you rest better. In order to be the best versions of yourselves for each other, it’s essential to get a full 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Otherwise, you may become irritable, unhappy, and, well, tired. If nothing else seems to work, then trying a sleep divorce could be what actually keeps you together in the long run.
“When sleep problems are disturbing a partner to this extent, it is probably time to seek help from a doctor, to diagnose and treat possible underlying sleep disorders. It is important to be on the same page with your partner,” said Dr. Wells.
Getting In And Out Of Bed Or Going To Bed At Different Times
Similar to your partner tossing and turning, them getting in and out of bed at night — or going to bed at a different time altogether — can be a quick and easy way to wake you up. If this is an ongoing problem, consider the following.
- Identify the cause. Why is your partner getting up at night? Are they using the restroom? Getting a glass of water? Feeling the need to move their legs? If it’s because they’re using the restroom, they may want to cut out the liquids before bed and see if that helps. However, if it’s not due to drinking too much liquid before bed, it may be time to consult with your doctor to see if there’s a deeper issue. Feeling dehydrated or restless at night can also have some underlying causes that are worth addressing with a medical expert.
- Reduce motion transfer. As mentioned earlier, if a bed has high motion transfer, that means you’re likely to feel movement on the other side of it. You can reduce motion transfer by looking for a mattress or mattress topper with high motion isolation. These will typically be products with foam inside. Again, it’s important to first talk to a medical professional to make sure nothing bigger is going on.
- Reduce sleep disruptors. Thanks to differing schedules or chronotypes, sometimes different bedtimes can’t be helped. The key here is communicating with your partner to reduce the parts of their nightly routine that wake you up. Some routine changes may include:
- Asking your partner to start grabbing their pajamas in the evening and putting them in a separate room so they aren’t rummaging through the dresser or bedroom closet while you’re trying to sleep.
- If your bathroom is attached to your bedroom, consider getting a nightlight so you’re less likely to be disturbed by the bright overhead bathroom lights. Likewise, see if late-night showerers can shift their routine around a bit so the sound of the water running doesn’t wake you.
- If they watch TV to wind down, ask them to do it in a separate room instead of turning the bedroom TV on when they’re ready to call it a night. Find more on TV-related sleep tips below!
Sleeping With A Light On
It’s recommended to keep your sleeping environment as dark as possible to enhance your snooze. If your partner won’t budge on breaking the habit of sleeping with a light on (despite the benefits of doing so), then try meeting in the middle. Talk to your partner about switching the light they keep on to a dimmed light or a night light. There are also a lot of comfortable sleep masks on the market you could end up loving that will allow you to sleep in complete darkness.
Keeping The Television On
Health experts strongly advise against having the television on in the bedroom or using your phone in bed. If your partner is keeping you up with the light and noise, it’s good to identify what part of the TV experience helps them fall asleep. If it’s the light, then we already have that covered above. However, if it’s the noise, then you should look into better alternatives. Although some of us prefer to sleep in total silence, you may be surprised how easy it is to fall asleep to white noise machines, as that’s what they’re built for.
We all have our annoying habits and pet peeves we deal with, but when it comes to sleep, you shouldn’t sacrifice your needs. A good night’s rest is essential for all of us to thrive in our daily lives.
“Sleep is one of the pillars of optimal health,” said Dr. Wells. “[It’s] just as important as diet and exercise, and is arguably one of the most important predictors of health that you can change.”
Hopefully these tips will help you and your partner get back on track, so you can catch some Zzzs and optimize your health.