Snorers get a room of their own
Forget retreats to the couch to escape a spouse's noisy zzz's. Some couples are adding 'snoring rooms' to keep the peace at night.
Is your head dipping into your soup? Can't keep your eyes focused on that spreadsheet because your spouse's snoring cost you yet another night's sleep?
Maybe what you need is a "snoring room."
Snoring rooms topped a survey of 923 real-estate professionals around North America when Agent to Agent e-zine asked them what's hot for 2007.
"Of all the ones (picked as hot), I think it's going to be the snoring rooms that are going to be incorporated into new-home construction, especially because now it's becoming more socially acceptable to say, 'I love you, but I'm not going to sleep with the chain saw. I need my rest, too,' " says Mark Nash, the publisher of Agent to Agent and the author of the book "1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home."
Yet you don't need a new home, or an expensive home, to make a snoring room of your own, say their fans.
The big sleeplessness
Lack of sleep isn't just an inconvenience for merely a few people.
In a 1995 National Sleep Foundation poll, 67% of people who were married or living with someone said their partner snored. People who had a partner with any type of sleep problem -- including insomnia, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome -- were more likely to say they had sleep-related problems themselves, including greater trouble falling asleep, more-frequent daytime sleepiness and fewer nights of satisfactory sleep.
Those problems can add up to serious trouble. Thirteen percent of fatal car accidents are tied to drivers who drift off behind the wheel, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In the workplace, about $13 billion and 30 million workdays are lost each year because of sleep-related accidents on the job.
Sleep interruption caused by a spouse is "probably often the most common unresolved difficulty" in a marriage, Paul Rosenblatt, a professor at the University of Minnesota and author of the book "Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing."
"I would say that -- and I'm not sure of the exact number -- but something like 20%, 25% of the (42) couples I interviewed slept apart for at least part of the night, part of the time, because of snoring or some other reason," he says.
Looking for someplace to go
Time was, a grumpy, groggy spouse might grab a blanket and head for the couch. That's changing.
Real-estate agent Roberta Murphy remembers her first encounter with the new trend.
"It was a physician's home in the Del Mar area of San Diego, and we were showing the home -- a beautiful home in every respect -- master bedroom, luxurious master bath. And we opened a door -- it wasn't a closet but a room about 8 by 10 that had a twin bed, simply made, and perhaps an easy chair and a lamp. It was a very, very, very simple, small bedroom," says Murphy, of The Murphy Group, part of Windermere Exclusive Properties in Carlsbad, Calif.
"This was a couple of years ago," she recalls, "and my first thought was, 'This must be the proverbial doghouse.' And someone said, 'Oh, no, it's the snoring room.'
"It's something that we'd never hear of five years ago," Murphy adds. ". . . Anecdotally, it's becoming more prevalent. It's not a common request, but it is occurring more often."
In a February report called "The Home of the Future" by the National Association of Home Builders -- a survey of marketing experts, architects and others about what consumers will want in new homes in 2015 -- 62% said demand for dual master suites would increase significantly in upscale homes. That could indicate a larger interest in a place for a spouse to escape a loud-sleeping mate. But those suites could be used for other purposes -- to house guests, elderly parents, caregivers or college-age children -- notes Steve Melman, the director of economic services for the group.
Kathy and Scott Happ didn't realize they were trendsetters when, six years ago, they asked the designers of their new home north of Milwaukee to include a snoring room.
"They tried not to laugh too hard, but they laughed," Kathy Happ, 45, recalls of that meeting.
But building such a room made sense for the Happs. After trying everything else -- earplugs, sound machines -- Kathy had been leaving the bedroom at night for much of the couple's 20-year marriage.
"I'm a really light sleeper, my husband is a very loud snorer, and I just wasn't getting much sleep," she says. In the couple's old house, "I ended up sleeping in the guest room a lot of the time . . . at least 50% of the time."
But that wasn't always possible. Kathy also hated getting up in the night and walking down the hall. "So when we were planning our new house we were going to just put an extra bedroom, but then we got talking about it, and we said, 'How about if we just put on a big sitting room . . . and we'd just put a bed in there?' "
The Happs went further than that, though. The snoring room, essentially a walled-off sitting area or sewing room, is right off the master bedroom yet inside the master bedroom suite. French doors define the space. "We put some extra insulation in the walls" to further dampen noise, Kathy adds. Inside the room is a queen-size bed, a built-in bookshelf and a nightstand.
Windows facing the back yard keep the space from feeling like a closet, says architect Todd Rabidoux of Lakeside Development, a Mequon, Wis., company that designed and built the Happs' home.
The cost for a basic snoring room in a new home doesn't have to be a lot: "You might be $65 a square foot," he says. That's $6,500 for that 10- by 10-foot room. "The primary cost is the windows," says Rabidoux. "If you didn't have those it could be $50 or less" per square foot.
What does Kathy's husband think? "He loves it," she says. "We both agreed that it was absolutely something we needed. He likes to go to sleep earlier." And Scott can shut the doors and escape from the family's pets. But the two still recline on the other bed to talk and read before bedtime, Kathy says.
Though Rabidoux's firm hasn't yet created more of these, he says, "I think what we're seeing more of is a general space off the master suite . . . that can serve a multipurpose." It's a trend that others confirm.
Separate but together
In Miami, interior designer Michael Saruski of Saruski Design Studio has been amazed at the attention garnered by a snoring room he designed for a high-powered Broward County, Fla., couple.
As part of a larger renovation of the master suite, Saruski took the bedroom and sitting room and converted them to two sleeping areas. In order to keep a sense of connection between the rooms, and the spouses, the rooms are connected by sliding glass doors. (Yes, those doors have soundproof glass.)
"All of a sudden all these people come up to me and say, 'We've been doing this for years, but I was too embarrassed (to say anything).' A lot of people have been coming out of the closet," so to speak, Saruski says.
A new office off the master bath lets either spouse stay up late and work without disturbing the other. The changes, including bathroom renovations, cost about $20,000.
If it's good enough for a sex columnist . . .
Josey Vogels knows a few things about sleeping with other people. Vogels, the author of "Bedside Manners" and other books, is a Toronto sex and dating columnist.
She also likes her sleep. "I'm a really light sleeper and seemingly more so as I get older," says Vogels, 42. "And I tend not to be able to get to sleep if I have the anticipation of something waking me up."
At least a few nights each week, Vogels decamps to a den to escape her loving but snoring hubby.
"I haven't done anything special to the room -- it's pretty much a bed. I make sure that I have my own alarm and clock radio because I like to listen to the radio when I wake up." And it's got nice sheets. And it's a double bed -- because you never know who might come visit.
That brings us to the elephant in the (snoring) room: Sleeping apart has been rarely discussed because it implies that something's broken in the connubial bower. But to Vogels, it's no big deal; her sex life has nothing to do with her sleep life, she says.
"The time where we're asleep I figure it's not like it matters where we're sleeping," she says, adding, "Neither of us is (nighttime) cuddlers." Vogels says the two-room plan works great: She wakes refreshed and happier, and often crawls into bed with her husband in the morning to say hi.
Still, "we joke about it a lot," Vogels says. At night, "my husband rarely notices when I leave." But in the morning, "he always asks, 'Where did you go?' And I always make some snarky remark: 'Oh, I went out clubbing.' "
By Christopher Solomon