Of all the strangers I've had sex with, those who know when it's time to leave my apartment are the people I appreciate the most. Not because I don't enjoy sharing my bed, but because I never look forward to what the night may bring. The worst part of not wanting to fall asleep next to a person you don't really know is the challenge of finding things to do that'll keep you awake. Watching TV usually does the trick, but cable becomes increasingly weird the later it gets.
Every commercial after 3 am seems to be an ad for a sleazy phone sex line or even more cringe-worthy, one promoting some type of magical mattress, designed to keep men from snoring. Men like me, who snore loud enough to wake my partner and my neighbors and the crackheads up the block.
I don't always make it through the night, though. Sometimes I pass out, and in the morning, if my partner is still around, my life suddenly feels like the start of an advertisement. But I'm not sure I actually believe any of these commercials, or their claims. Moreover, I don't particularly appreciate the way those claims are made.
Every product supposedly designed to cure a person's snoring has the same late-night ad, scripted with the same inauspicious premise: Your wife hates you because you're a loud, obnoxious fuck. And if that terrible selling point doesn't inspire you to pick up the phone and dial that 800 number, the brilliant copywriters behind these unpleasant commercials usually follow that with some vague and ominous statistic suggesting a frighteningly large number of marriages end in divorce due to excessive snoring.
I'm smart enough to know half the shit you see on TV doesn't actually work. But I'm also easily startled by numbers. So, I'm left with two absolutes: I'm definitely not buying any of those mattresses, and I'm for sure going to die alone.
Because I'm single and only 24 years old, I especially hate hearing the troubling stats linking snoring to divorce. Logic would suggest that if your fight to breathe at night can push away someone who literally swore a lawful oath to be with you until the end of time, my buzz saw-revving ass can't possibly fall asleep next to a woman I've known for all of eight hours if I ever want her to return someday.
Millions of dollars and hours of effort seem to be poured into finding ways to save marriages from sleep apnea and other snoring related disorders. As a self-absorbed millennial, watching late-night ads between scenes of Martin on MTV2, I'm left wondering why researchers don't care about my fuck buddies nearly as much.
There doesn't seem to be one quality article or study out there that examines how chronic snoring affects the romantic lives of single people. That doesn't seem right, as this is a problem that literally keeps me (and my bed partners) up at night.
However slighted I may feel, though, this scientific oversight might actually be a logical response to biology.
"The prevalence of sleep apnea goes up as people get older, because your airways become more collapsible as you age," says Patrick Strollo, a physician specializing in sleep disorders at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "Men with sleep apnea tend to generally present symptoms [snoring] in their 40s. For women, it's about a decade later."
If older people run the highest risk of developing sleep disorders that result in snoring, I suppose it makes sense why researchers would focus their work on married life, as you're more likely to have and lose a spouse once you reach a certain age.
But the fact remains that I'm a fairly young man who snores disturbingly loud. I'm 145 pounds, modestly spread over five feet and ten inches—so weight isn't the issue either. I can accept the fact that researchers aren't concerned with my bed partners, as my bed partners aren't concerned with marriage. But what I can't grasp is why there aren't any preventative studies being done that seek to keep young folks from ending up like some romantically doomed couples.
"The other thing that puts people at risk is the way their face is put together—genetics," Strollo notes. "If you have a relatively small jaw, your airway might be narrow…if your dad is a heavy snorer, and you look like your dad, it's likely you're going to snore."
My dad is a heavy snorer. And he has sleep apnea. I'm not sure if I've inherited his sleep disorder, though, or if I'm just a local snorer—someone whose snoring is unrelated to any one condition. As I've mentioned before, I'm a black man who stereotypically neglects the doctor.
One thing I do know for sure is that my heavily snoring father has been married to my extremely patient mother for over 30 years. They haven't fallen victim to infomercial statistics.
Some experts, at least, are certain those statistics are garbage anyway.
"Among sleep doctors, there's no uniform agreement on the severity of snoring," says Avram Gold, the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Stony Brook University. Since there are "small differences" in everyone's snoring, when looking at the correlation between snoring and divorce, his guess is there's no relationship.
If the prospect of divorce depends on how loudly a person snores, it must also depend on how tolerant their bed partner is of such a disturbance. That's where things tend to break down for single people. A casual hook-up has no reason to tolerate my snoring.
I've lost track of my body count, but I'd need less than ten fingers to figure out how many friends with benefits I've allowed myself to fall asleep around. They all responded to my snoring negatively.
I've hooked up with a woman, gone to bed with her, and woken up to find she'd left in the middle of the night. I've had women sleep next to me with headphones on. Eventually, after getting to a point of feeling too ashamed to sleep next to a partner, certain women started telling their friends I'm a fuckboy who kicks girls out immediately after sex. (I'm not a fuckboy. I'm just sensitive, ma.)
Single life has its valleys and peaks, but it's especially lonely when you're afraid to share a bed with the people you have sex with. Especially given the fact that studies have shown snorers actually sleep better when they have a bed partner.
People who have trouble breathing at night tend to snore more when they sleep on their backs. "When you have a bed partner, you're more likely to fall asleep on your side," says Gold. "I have a wife, and she has sleep apnea—I diagnosed her myself. When she sleeps on her back, she snores, and I have to flip her. If you don't have a bed partner poking you in the ribs, you're overwhelmingly more likely to wind up on your back, and you'll snore more."
I don't want to marry any of my fuck buddies—not yet, anyway. For now, I just want them to nudge me from time to time.