Three years into their relationship, Megan had a realization: Whenever her husband rolled over onto his back in his sleep, he snored. It took the 27-year-old so long to realize the pattern because when she started dating him seven years earlier, they both lived with their parents to save money. Although she’d occasionally sleep over, Megan is a pretty deep sleeper, and so, “it wasn’t until we were fully living together and sleeping in the same bed every night that I really noticed,” she tells me.
At first, she thought it might be an isolated incident, but the snoring kept going, as did her sleepless nights. “Once I noticed, I couldn’t un-notice,” Megan says. But when she finally brought up the snoring with her husband, he flat out denied it. “He said nobody had ever complained about his snoring and said we’d been together for years, so why would I only be noticing it now?”
Megan took his denial as a challenge. “I literally made it my mission to camp out in bed at night and wait for him to fall asleep so I could record the audio,” she recalls. “I failed the first three nights as I fell asleep waiting, but on the fourth night, I finally got it.”
But even when presented with the evidence, her husband continued to deny it, saying the audio “could be a recording of anyone.” So one night, after sitting with him through the first three Star Wars movies until he finally passed out on the couch, she took a video recording of the snores in action. But when she showed him the video? “He said I was ‘invading his privacy,’ and ‘How am I supposed to fall asleep if you’re going to be waiting with a camera?’” He slept on the couch that night and continues to deny the snoring to this day.
As ridiculous as it sounds, there are an army of snoring deniers like Megan’s husband out there. In fact, when told by their significant other that they’re committing noise violations in their sleep, many people respond with the same line: “Well, I’ve never heard myself snore.”
Per marriage and family therapist Christian Bumpous, the total dismissal of being a snorer — even in the face of overwhelming evidence — most likely has a lot to do with shame. From his experience working with insomnia-inducing clients, Bumpous found that “their denial was more about them trying to manage their own negative emotions about it, rather than trying to harm or gaslight their non-snoring partner.” So while the very tired partners of snoring deniers may at times question their reality, their partner’s dismissal is much more innocuous than manipulative, unless it’s part of a pervasive pattern that extends to other parts of the relationship.
This was the case for Jimmy, 38, who says his ex-wife “used to snore loud enough to shake the foundation of the house” — something he noticed early on in their relationship but “didn’t actually mention until we ended up getting locked into our first screaming argument,” he tells me. “She said it had never been a problem for anyone else she’d slept with, which kind of made me feel awkward, embarrassed and a little upset at the same time.”
This went on for another five years, and though he never recorded his spouse’s snoring, his mother-in-law confirmed she was a snorer as a child. It made him feel validated — but only to a point. His ex never owned up to the snoring and the couple finally divorced, but Jimmy admits they also had a lot of other problems, like their frequent fighting. “I’m not saying that her denying and refusing to try and deal with a potentially dangerous health issue contributed to the breakdown of my marriage, but it didn’t help,” Jimmy says. In the end, “the snoring and her constant denial was just the icing on an incredibly under-baked cake.”
Of course, some snoring deniers remain forever unconvinced, like Daniel, who’s ex-girlfriend accused him of snoring. “I’m convinced that she made the whole thing up,” he tells me. Daniel’s reasoning is that he’s been married to a different person for six years, and she has never once complained. His ex, who he dated for a little over a year, only brought up the snoring in the context of an argument, and she was using the snoring as an excuse for her being in a bad mood all the time. “I think the fact that I denied it infuriated her even more, so she pretty much brought it up during every argument,” he says.
Daniel works as a personal injury lawyer, and his reactions to the snoring accusations square with that. “Until someone proves otherwise, I’m definitely not a snorer,” he says, adding his advice to other non-snorers (or so they think) facing seemingly false complaints: “Don’t crack under the pressure. Unless you have concrete evidence, then you don’t snore!”
But as absurd and infuriating as snoring denial can be, it’s crucial for couples to not be accusatory and defensive when approaching issues like this. As marriage and family therapist Saba Harouni Lurie points out, standoffs that bring people to the point of recording their partners sleeping and engaging in screaming matches are almost always about something bigger. “I’d really encourage a couple to be curious about why one party would say that the other is snoring, and why the other party is denying it,” Lurie explains. “Perhaps there’s an issue of trust that needs to be addressed.”
For couples in this predicament, Bumpous suggests getting on the same page as soon as possible. “It goes back to, if one of us struggles, it’s an issue for the relationship and both of us are going to be committed to figuring this out,” he says.
For example, when Amanda first brought up her husband’s occasional snoring with him, he denied it at first, but then made excuses “like being sick or having a few drinks.” Yet, even when he leans into his denials and she stays up late documenting how loud his snoring is, the two have been able to maintain a sense of humor about it. “I’ve recorded him to show him how loud it is, but he jokingly still denies it and often blames the dog,” Amanda says.
Over the years, Amanda and her husband have worked to problem solve, and in doing so, she’s found that her husband’s excuses are not, in fact, total bullshit. For instance, when she first called out his nocturnal horn-blasting, he blamed it on the fact that he hadn’t been to the gym in a while. And as it turns out, research shows that working out does help with snoring issues. “I did lots of Googling during some desperate nights of loud snores,” Amanda continues. While her husband still won’t own up to snoring exactly, he’s open to trying things that could help his wife sleep better, and that’s what matters most to her.
After all, in the end, everyone wants the same exact thing here — a good night’s sleep.