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January 22, 2014
Tune My Heart
by Marian Stoddard

My husband snores. I love him lots, but he snores. Loudly. As he lost a little youth and gained a little weight, some twenty-odd years ago, the snoring got worse.

If he was asleep, flat on his back, it was almost inevitable that he would be snoring. I hated to wake him, but I needed to sleep too, and sometimes I couldn’t. He told me to just nudge him till he turned over on his side and that should solve it. He assured me that it was okay even if I woke him up, if I really needed him to shift so that I could get some rest.

That was mostly sufficient for a while, but it got worse. He sounded awful; when he fell into a deep sleep he would go from silence to sudden sharp snorts. Since he almost always fell asleep faster than I did, sometimes as I would finally start to drift off he would be sinking into deep sleep and suddenly make these horrible noises that made me startle and flail my limbs, heart pounding.

I didn’t dare really relax at night because these episodes were so distressing.

This was not a recipe for marital bliss.

“I’m sorry, I’m not doing it on purpose. You don’t have to hit me.”

“I’m not hitting you, my arms fling out when you make me jump. It’s not deliberate. You’re just in the way. It’s a startle reflex, not an attack. But we have to do something about your snoring. I can’t even let myself relax and unwind.

“Maybe if we can position you differently while you sleep, so that your airway has a straight line, which it doesn’t. Your pillow is a flat mess, long past its useful life. I have to sleep on a contour pillow for my neck injury, how about if we get you something that will actually give you some support? If we can hold your head in a better position it might make a difference.”

He agreed that it was worth a try, so I bought him a new pillow and gave it to him. I warned him that it would take a few days to get used to sleeping in a different position than he was used to, and he agreed to give it a try.

That pillow made his snoring so much better those first couple of nights. But he complained that it felt unnatural and he couldn’t get deeply asleep.

Please, just give it a chance. (Okay.) Then, to my dismay, I saw that he was, partly in his sleep, moving, folding and contorting that new pillow until he could approximate the line in which the old, worn-out pillow had held him. And of course the snoring was increasing again as he became successful in that quest.

He still complained that he was uncomfortable. After a week, he asked, can I give this up now?

What could I do but agree, unhappily. He wasn’t going to tackle the adjustment phase to a new sleeping position, and maybe it wasn’t enough of a solution anyway. I was reduced, again, to lying awake listening to him sputter and snore.

We are such creatures of habit.

How often do we persist in doing the things we’re used to, even though they don’t work for us anymore? How often do we rationalize our reluctance to make changes that would only bless our lives? Too often. Sometimes we resist acting on our answers, sometimes we shy away from even asking for the answers we feel sure we won’t like. It’s a good thing our Heavenly Father is patient with us.

How often would I have gathered you, as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not? he asked the Nephites. He invited them to come, still, put things right and be healed — and they came. He holds his arms out to us too.

We had a friend who was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. In his sleep study, he told us, he quit breathing dozens of times a night, for up to nine seconds at a time. It was scary.

It also sounded more and more like sleep time at our house. My husband was persuaded to go in for a sleep study himself and received the same diagnosis. (And he scared me half to death when he crawled into bed in the middle of the night because they found his pattern obvious enough that they sent him home before morning.)

The answer was a mask and an air compressor (CPAP machine) to sleep with.

Going to sleep with a hose forcing air at you is a bit of an adjustment, and I worry about the other friend we know who had a diagnosis, brought the machine home for a night, and said forget it — get this thing out of here. He still never feels rested, and he just takes that as a fact of life. It might not need to be. Sleep apnea is a serious condition.

The Lord helped us ask the right question. In being assured by someone who’d done it that the adjustment period wouldn’t be long and then he would feel much better all the time, my sweetheart did stick with what mattered much more, in fact, than a positioning pillow.

As a solution, the pillow ultimately would not have been adequate. The right answer saved not only our sanity and rest, but his health.

So many of our answers in life come through those two parts: divine guidance and the connecting experiences and support of those around us. We need our Heavenly Father, and we need each other too. You never know where help may come from, but it comes.

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