When I was eight, my dad moved our family to North Dakota. If the culture shock of living in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere wasn’t bad enough, he made the five of us move into a two-bedroom apartment while our house was being built. Sure, my sisters and I complained about having to share a bedroom and all, but that wasn’t the worst part. Every night around 2 am, when my dad finally passed out in front of the news, the walls of that apartment shook with the thunderous sounds of his slumber.
His snoring started off gently; a low rumble with each breath. As his body relaxed, it gathered resonance. The rumble escalated into the sound of a motor. The motor into a roar. Once he was fully in REM sleep, he added a percussion section of sputtering and choking sounds. He would continue like that through the night, the ebb and flow of a cyclical power saw punctuated by pauses of deafening silence. On nights when the pauses lasted more than a few seconds, my older sister would stand over his bed, worried he would stop breathing altogether. For six months, he was the only one who got any sleep, even if that sleep wasn’t particularly restful.
Snoring is common, but it’s not normal.
We’ve probably all experienced living with a snorer. Whether or not we admit it, we’ve probably even been that snorer. About half of us snore at some point in our lives, with men (57%) being the culprits more often than women (40%). It even happens in 27% of kids. It can be transient, from a cold or allergies, or limited to certain positions, like sleeping on our backs. Sometimes we snore under certain circumstances, like after drinking too many beers or taking a sedative. Weight gain can make snoring more persistent, as can a whole host of upper respiratory blockages, like big tonsils, big adenoids, or a deviated septum.
Snoring is loudest in the deepest stages of sleep when your muscles are the most flaccid. Although the average snorer reaches a loudness of between 60 decibels (normal conversation) and 80 decibels (New York City traffic), the loudest snorer on record is a British grandmother. She maxed out at 111.6 decibels–the equivalent of a jet plane.