Laugh and the world laughs with you,” British novelist Anthony Burgess once quipped. “Snore and you sleep alone.” However, based on a recent study, Burgess’ remark might need updating:
“Snore and your sex life suffers.”
Mayo Clinic researchers have shown that in men, snoring is associated with reduced sexual satisfaction. It’s the first study to show this, so one might dismiss the finding as a fluke, especially because the men’s sexual function (libido, erection, and ejaculation) remained unaffected. But the association was strong. It appears that men’s snoring irritates the women in their beds, disturbing their sleep and reducing women’s sexual energy to the point that men report normal sexual functioning but less satisfaction.
In the study, the Rochester, Minnesota, researchers asked 827 men in ongoing relationships, age range 51 to 90, to complete surveys of their sex lives and sleep habits. As snoring increased, sexual satisfaction declined. Compared with non-snorers, heavy snorers were twice as likely to report low sexual satisfaction—even though the heavy snorers reported no more problems with libido, erections, or ejaculation.
It’s possible that the snoring-sexual satisfaction association is an artifact, a finding better explained in another way. In addition to suffering in the sack, the heavy snorers also reported less robust health: more diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, and congestive heart failure. All of these conditions can sap sexual energy and interfere with sexual functioning and satisfaction.
But when chronic medical conditions reduce sexual satisfaction, they also always impair sexual function, reducing libido, and increasing risk of erectile dysfunction and other sex problems. In this study, snoring reduced sexual satisfaction—without at all interfering with sexual function. So what gives? A message that’s usually delivered by a sharp elbow in the wee hours. Don’t annoy the woman you sleep with.
Anyone can snore, but “sleeping out loud” is considerably more common in men than women. No matter who snores, that person’s bedmate typically responds with a swift kick to coax the offender to roll from a supine position, which promotes snoring, to side-sleeping, which is less likely to trigger it.
Snoring is caused by a loss of muscle tone in throat tissue, which sags. As you breathe, the air makes this loose tissues vibrate audibly.
If you snore, you can boost your sexual satisfaction, by working to stop snoring:
Get your partner earplugs. Cheap ones are available at pharmacies. Custom plugs cost more but work better. Ask your physician.
Get out your sewing kit. Sew a golf or tennis ball into a closed pocket on the back of your pajamas. This prevents supine sleeping—and the snoring associated with it.
Lose weight. The less fat tissue in the throat, the less likely you are to snore.
Treat your allergies. Hay fever makes throat tissue swell.
Stop alcohol within four hours of retiring. Alcohol relaxes the throat muscles, loosening throat tissue, and promoting snoring.
Avoid sedatives. Sedatives have effects similar to alcohol. If you have insomnia, get more regular exercise, discuss non-drug alternatives with your physician, or consult an acupuncturist, hypnotherapist, naturopath, or massage therapist.
Don’t smoke. Smokers have chronically swollen throat tissue, which increases snoring.
Raise your head. Elevating your head often reduces snoring. Use an extra pillow. Or raise the head of your bed with bricks or wood blocks.
Try an AveoTSD. TSD means tongue stabilizing device. This odd-looking plastic gizmo extends the tip of the tongue so you sleep as if sticking your tongue out. This repositioning opens the airway and minimizes snoring. When it works, it works very well. For more, visit getaveo.com
Consider minor surgery. Some otolaryngologists claim good success implanting small, flexible bands in the throat, like the stays sewn into some shirt collars. Cost: Around $4,000, usually out of pocket.
Sleep separately. It’s the last resort, but if you sleep somewhere else, that other thing you do in bed is likely to become more enjoyable.
Hanak, V. et al. “Snoring as a Risk Factor for Sexual Dysfunction in Community Men,” Journal of Sexual Medicine (2008) 5:898.