Snoring can be a very serious issue. It can be a sign of sleep apnea, it can lead to restless nights and it can cause relationship problems. But if you put all those very real issues aside, snoring is kind of hilarious. Coming up just behind farts and burps, snoring is easily one of the funniest sounds the human body can make, and in no place has it been more perfect for comedic fodder than in cartoons.
From Fred Flintstone’s cacophonous snorts to SpongeBob’s adorable honks, snoring has always been a reliable comedic device for cartoons, as well as cartoon-adjacent stuff like The Three Stooges. But as funny as they are, those snores might be indicative of some deeper issues, so I called up “The Sleep Doctor,” Dr. Michael Breus, to diagnose these snores and suggest what the possible cures might be.
Symptoms: Popeye’s snoring includes a deep snort followed by a loud whistle. He’s also breathing really heavily, as evidenced by objects in his room flying around.
Diagnosis: “If I remember correctly, Popeye has a pipe,” says Breus. “When you’re a smoker, the smoke will cause inflammation in the lungs. That makes your esophagus get smaller, which causes the air to travel faster. That results in a vibration, which is what causes the snore. He’s also breathing only through his mouth, which means he’s probably congested.”
Possible Cure: Breus says that Popeye would benefit from sleeping on his side since side-sleeping allows you to breathe easier. Breus also says that Popeye should try “mouth tape,” because he’s breathing exclusively through his nose. (For the uninitiated, mouth tape is a newer snoring treatment where a vertical piece of tape forces a snorer to breathe through their nose as opposed to their mouth.) Breus also recommends that Popeye quit smoking, but I’m pretty sure if Popeye was told that, he’d respond with a hearty “I yam what I yam.” That, or a swift punch to Breus’ gut.
Symptoms: Fred’s deep snoring is so loud that all of Bedrock can hear him. It also seems to be causing issues in his marriage, since Wilma has clearly had enough.
Diagnosis: “There’s a lot going on with Fred Flintstone,” says Breus. “For one, he’s got his saber-tooth cat sleeping on him, so there’s possibly some pet allergies, which can lead to congestion, which can lead to snoring. He vocalizes in his sleep, too, so there’s some form of sleep-talking going on. He’s also overweight, and his snoring is very loud, so I think he’s definitely got sleep apnea.”
Possible Cure: Aside from losing some weight, Breus says an air filter and a CPAP machine would likely do Fred a lot of good, though finding either of those in the Stone Age might be a problem. He also says to put the cat outside, but that might be a problem too. If you remember your Flintstones correctly, when Fred puts the cat outside, the cat comes right back in and throws Fred outside.
Diagnosis: “Shemp has something called ‘sleep-moaning,’” Breus says. That’s when there’s a kind of vocalization during sleep. Usually it’s a moan, but with Shemp, it’s that ‘be-be-be’ sound. He’s snoring as well, and I hear some pauses in between the snores, which means he’s probably not breathing there. I’d say there’s probably some sleep apnea going on with him. He’s not heavy, but he’s got a thick neck, which is sometimes characteristic of those with sleep apnea.”
Possible Cure: “He’s a really interesting case,” says Breus. “If Shemp came into my office with this video, I’d want him to do a sleep study. I’d tell him, ‘Dude, you’re going in the lab because I want to check you out.’”
Symptoms: When Goofy sleeps, his snoring has a deep snorting sound and then a high-pitched flutter. It’s so bad that his son is losing sleep over it.
Diagnosis: “Goofy has got something else going on,” says Breus. “In this clip, he’s sleeping in a car and sitting up straight, so gravity isn’t playing a role here — which it often does in snoring. Because of this, Goofy’s snoring could be more serious. I’d want to look at his tonsils and adenoids because I think there’s something in his throat that’s causing his snoring.”
Possible Cure: Breus says surgery — probably a tonsillectomy — might be the way to go for Goofy. Though with how accident prone Goofy is, I shudder to think how things would go when he’s under the knife.
Symptoms: Big Bird’s adorable snoring sounds a bit like a duck’s quack, which probably isn’t good since he’s a canary. He also seems to wake up a bit as he snores, so he’s probably not getting the proper rest.
Diagnosis: “Big Bird definitely has sleep apnea — no question about it. There’s a part in there where he’s swallowing and coughing and catching — that’s sleep apnea,” Breus says.
Possible Cure: This one is pretty straightforward, as Breus says, “Big Bird needs to lose some weight.”
Symptoms: With a slight honk and a little whistle, SpongeBob’s snore is super cute, but he’s still snoring, so it’s worth taking a look at.
Diagnosis: When Breus was watching the SpongeBob clip, he had to turn to a textbook because the snore was so unusual. Ultimately, he thinks SpongeBob might have “sleep-related groaning” — yes, that’s a different thing than sleep moaning — as evidenced by that tooting whistle-sound SpongeBob is making. That may mean there’s something anatomically wrong with SpongeBob. He also notes that SpongeBob is breathing very quickly, which he says might be evidence of a problem with lung function (assuming, of course, that sponges have lungs).
Possible Cure: SpongeBob’s case is both unusual and concerning to Breus, so like Shemp, he’d want to see SpongeBob take a sleep study. He also recommends that SpongeBob sleep more. “A lot of the time, when people do weird shit in their sleep, it’s because of sleep deprivation, and when they get a little more sleep, the problem goes away,” Breus explains.
Symptoms: How Snow White manages to get some rest in the dwarfs’ cottage is a mystery — most of the seven dwarfs snore, loudly, and each in their own, unique way.
Diagnoses: There’s seven of these little suckers, so let’s get to it. Grumpy can’t sleep, so he may have insomnia. Doc and Happy are overweight, so they’ve likely got sleep apnea. Sneezy’s snoring is likely caused by allergies. Breus isn’t worried about Bashful or Sleepy as Bashful has just a slight snore and Sleepy seems to be, well, a pretty sound sleeper.
Breus is very worried about Dopey, though. During his sleep, Dopey kicks and jumps like a dog does when they sleep. That’s normal for dogs but not for humans. “I think Dopey is acting out a dream in his sleep. During REM sleep, your body is paralyzed so that you don’t do that. So Dopey might have REM behavior disorder, which can be a precursor for Parkinson’s disease.”
Possible Cures: CPAP machines for Doc and Happy, an air filter for Sneezy and Grumpy’s insomnia would likely be cured by simply sleeping in his own bed (which he and the other dwarfs gave to Snow White).
As for Dopey, Breus says there isn’t much in the way of treatments, but klonopin sometimes helps people with REM behavior disorder stay in one place. The future for Dopey is uncertain though, as Breus says that 35 percent of people with REM behavior disorder end up with Parkinson’s disease, for which there is no cure.
And here I thought the Evil Queen and her dastardly apple were the worst part of Snow White.