The sensor hears the sound and triggers the pillow insert to inflate. I’m still asleep but the top half of my body rises, as though being tugged at by an alien tractor beam. Just like that, with my head raised and my airway open further, the dreadful noise I make, the one that wakes my wife every night, stops before it has a chance to start.
I found the Nora online. Apparently, it was one of Oprah’s favorite things of 2017. Consisting of a smart sensor and an inflatable pillow insert, it acts a snoring sentry of sorts. If the puck-shaped base senses that the burly lumberjack inside my throat is revving up his chainsaw, it signals the insert stuffed beneath my pillow to inflate. This raises my head and prevents the “floppy tissue” (that’s the technical term my doctor used, I swear) inside my throat and nasal passages from vibrating so that I breathe without so much as a snore.
More importantly, the Nora also protects my ribs from the hard blow they’d receive from my wife in the middle of the night. My snoring is a big problem. While my wife is patient and understanding, one can only take so much of what apparently sounds like a stubborn badger being slowly strangled to death before delivering a Van Damme-ian shot to wake me in hopes that a shift of position — maybe to my other side, maybe with a second pillow placed beneath me just-so — will prevent me from snoring so she can, to put it delicately, get some fucking sleep.
In sharing a bed with someone, you silently agree to share their bed habits both good (companionship! Sex! Eating Pretzels!) but also the good-god-make-it-stop (cover-yanking, night-screaming, sleep-farting, nose-whistling, can’t-sleep-without-ocean-waves-on-ing). As good sack time is so vital to, oh you know, everything we humans do and we literally go insane if we go without it for too long, it becomes very clear early on in a bed-sharing pact that you better button your sleep shit up for the sake of your partner.
Now, I get it. There are a lot of very serious sleep disorders and parasomnias that affect a large portion of the population. For a long time, I was certain I suffered from sleep apnea (thanks a lot, size 18 neck). These can be debilitating to live with and require both attention of doctors and the understanding of bed-sharers.
But when I say sleep shit, I mean the stuff you know you do and can very easily try to correct but don’t. These fall into two categories: the unconscious ticks you exhibit (sheet stealing, storing) and the boneheaded, partner-disturbing moves you make because you’re a wittle tired guy (flipping on the light; refusing not to play a podcast that puts you to sleep.)
If one of these applies to you, take measures to figure it out. Do you steal the sheets? Use some binder clips to secure the sheets to both sides of the bed. Can you only fall asleep to the sweet sounds of Marc Maron or Joe Rogan? Buy a pair of sleep headphones. Do you wear gym shorts in the morning, the swish swish swish of which wake your sleeping partner? Put ’em on outside, man.
Listen, it sucks to change your sleep routine. I’m a guy who likes to have a sleep routine or else I’m thrown off my axis. And for a long time I was a stubborn chump who got annoyed every time my wife jabbed me awake or woke me by trying to prop my head up at a different angle. What the hell? I’d think, and be angry at her for ruining my sleep. Then, one morning, I heard a recording of my snores.
I once lived in an apartment where the radiator was off-pitch so much that every time the radiator turned on it sounded as though someone was beating on it with drumsticks. This went on for 15 minutes every couple of hours and ruined my sleep for weeks. I was a miserable husk of a human being and the management company didn’t do anything until enough people in the building complained (my apartment was on the first floor and the clanging traveled up). When the handyman finally came to fix it and listened to the bong bong bong bong he shook his head like he was a weary beat cop from a ’70s thriller looking over a crime scene. “I’ve never heard anything like this.” That’s what I thought when I heard myself snoring. My god, I thought, how does she deal with this? I was the radiator.
So I started a quest to stop my snoring. I’ve tried nasal trips and mouth guards. I’ve taken sleep apnea screenings and secured my sleeping face with a strap that wraps around my head and cups my chin as though it were some sort of facial jockstrap. The Nora, this box that sits at my bedside and patrols for snores, thankfully, seems to be a solution. My wife is sleeping peacefully; my ribs are fine.
Marriage, some wise man said one time before the internet came and made it impossible to know who really said anything, is based on compromise. And this applies to everything, not just the things that happen when your eyes are open. So pay attention to what you do that keeps your partner awake and figure out something that works. It’s that simple. And difficult.
Because the real reason for defending their sleep — and giving them the knowledge of how to defend yours — is this: Over the years, plenty of things will keep you both up at night. A colicky baby. Job stress. General worry. During those moments, you’ll be there to support one another. Between those moments, you’ll both need your rest. Do your best to make it happen.