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Snoring and proximate cause

By Francis Ewherido

Snoring is a problem and a threat to many marriages, especially in the western world where their patience and tolerance span is comparatively shorter than ours. Statistics obtained from America shows that those marriages where one spouse snores have higher divorce rate than marriages where both spouses do not snore.

Snoring occurs when a person is unable to move air freely through the nose and throat causing him/her to make a snorting or grunting sound while asleep. Snoring may be one-off or permanent and the reasons range from obesity, consumption of alcohol to sleeping positions.


Medical conditions can also be responsible for snoring. Medical experts say there are no certain treatments that can eliminate medically-induced snoring, it can only be lessened and managed.

Although, we do not have data on the effect of snoring on marriages in Nigeria, a casual fact finding among people around shows that at least one spouse snores in every three marriages. So it is rampant.

A few spouses seeking divorce in Nigeria have listed snoring among their grievances, but I am not aware of any spouse who has sort divorce on the single ground that his/her other half snores. Even though snoring can make the other spouse very uncomfortable, I doubt if any judge in Nigeria will grant such a divorce.

I once shared a room with a heavy snorer. My sleep that night was fitful.  But it was not just the snoring that disturbed my sleep; it was the pattern of snoring. At a point, all would go quiet and I would become apprehensive that he has stopped breathing; then all of a sudden, he would roar into life in a cacophony of loud snorting and grunting.

The closest experience I have to his pattern of snoring was when I was inside an MRI machine some years ago. It was frightening, but the person is married and has been for over 25 years and the wife has accommodated his heavy snoring.

Why would anybody hang his/her quest for divorce on snoring? For more insight, let us travel a little into the world of insurance. One of the six pillars of insurance is the Principle of Proximate Cause, which means “the active, efficient, cause that sets in motion a train of events which brings about a result….” I will spare you the complicated second part of the definition.

In insurance, Proximate Cause (dominant cause) is very important because it is used to determine whether the peril you insured against is what caused the loss or an uninsured or excepted peril did. If the peril insured against is the proximate cause, your claim will be paid; if not, the claim can be avoided. Beyond the Proximate cause, there are others, called remote (minor) causes.

Living in Nigeria can sometimes be very stressful. Some people in Lagos leave for work before 5am and do not get back until after 10pm. Then when they get home, there is no electricity or water and they have to sort it out. You would expect somebody who has been out of the house for 15 hours to hit the bed and fall into a slumber, but no; he remembers the children’s school fees, rents and his old unreliable car with the mechanic, etc.

Beside this mountain of expenditure is a molehill of income. His body clings to his bed, but he is unable to sleep. How can such a man now say the proximate cause of his insomnia (inability to sleep) is his snoring wife? The proximate cause of his insomnia is poor finances, not his snoring wife.

Some married women are being blackmailed due to a momentary lapse into stupidity. Your blackmailer threatened to call your husband to blow the lid unless you part with N2m, which you do not have. You are in bed praying he does not call. Meanwhile, your husband is snoring away after a hard day’s work. Then you wake him up to change his sleeping position; are you normal? Is he the proximate cause of your insomnia? Ironically, many people who snore are unaware. If you need to inform your spouse, do it with tact, love and empathy, not throwing it in his/her face. I also feel you should until he/she wakes up, not interrupting his/her sleep; in marriage it is called sacrifice.

Snoring can be rankling, especially the MRI-machine type of snoring, but is it enough to end a marriage? The truth is if spouses go to bed tired and with peace of mind, they will sleep off, snoring or not, except those who are exceptionally allergic to noise.

Some spouses are just angry with and envious of their other halves who find sleep no matter their troubles, while they roll and roll in bed, hence the snoring excuse. This is more common with husbands, who bear the brunt of the financial burden in the family. They roll in bed worrying while their wives are snoring away.

You will be shocked to find out that some of these spouses being vilified were snoring before marriage. The other half was madly in love then, so it was not an issue. It only became an issue when the intoxication from the love wore off.

What do you do in a marriage if you have an issue with your spouse? First, there must be clarity of thought; you should have a firm and clear grip on what the issue is. Then you discuss it with your spouse.

Finally, together you must find a solution. If you apply these steps, you might just find out the problem stems from a building resentment over other issues, not snoring. For some women, your husband started snoring because he has put on weight partly because of the food you serve him. So you are part of the problem. As part of his weight-shedding programme, you have to alter his diet.

Where your spouse needs medical attention, you encourage him/her to do just that. There are many affordable and readily accessible therapies out there. Sleeping in separate rooms should be a last resort.

It is not encouraged because it can easily create unnecessary gaps between spouses. It can also become an escape route to prolong quarrels that should not last a second. For your information, some couples only have separate rooms in theory, in practice the wives virtually stay in the husbands’ rooms. Their rooms basically serve as massive wardrobes.

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