Surviving Sleeplessness in a Shared Space

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Do you know what it’s like to suffocate? Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but the way my roommate situation has turned out this year, it seems like a good description of my condition. After freshman year, one of my best friends and I decided to room together. I knew that he vaped and stuff, but I thought it wouldn’t be a problem. Turns out I was wrong. This kid smokes all the time. On top of that, he is always lighting up incense. I talked to him about this and he promised to stop vaping in our dorm room. He didn’t stop. Instead he smokes while I’m out but doesn’t smoke while I’m there (even though I can smell it). This would be less of a problem if I didn’t have sleep apnea. This means that I snore pretty loudly at times, and that I already have trouble breathing and falling asleep. Now that our room is always smokey I’m having even more trouble. On top of that, he’s complaining about my snoring. What do I do? Do I shrug this off? I’m worried about snitching on him for smoking in the dorm, but should I? Or should I just leave myself?

Some people make great friends and great roommates; some people make great friends and terrible roommates. Unfortunately, the only way to know if you and a friend are compatible roommates or not is to take the plunge. In your case, you took the plunge and the answer turned out to be no: you and your friend are not good roommates. That’s rough, but let’s look at what you can do to salvage the situation and get something closer to 40 winks.

Just to be clear, your roommate isn’t being much of a friend here. Having sleep apnea is tough. It’s so common that people don’t treat it like a real disorder, but often as an annoyance. According to the Mayo Clinic, one of sleep apnea’s most common symptoms is loud snoring, but other symptoms include insomnia and daytime sleepiness. Even though it may bother him, it is much more of a burden on you. You probably have other specific needs: your CPAP machine, CPAP cleaner, and mouth exercises.

We don’t have to tell you, but not getting enough sleep can lead to a myriad of problems, from being more stressed to a suppressed immune system. Not only is your health affected, but the effects of poor sleep can bleed into your academic life. The University of Georgia’s page on sleep for college students recommends getting at least 8 hours of sleep (a number that we have all heard before) but pairs it with an interesting statistic: “students who get 6 or fewer hours of sleep have a lower GPA than those who get 8 or more.” Preszler law firm in Vancouver notes that it can even lead to anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. You shouldn’t shrug this off. This is about your health and your happiness.

Have you spoken to your RA and campus housing office about this problem? Most campus housing offices give special considerations to people who people like you with special health needs (and yes, sleep apnea counts!). While we understand the desire not to be a “snitch,” you do not have to frame it as such. If they ask, make it about your sleep apnea, rather than his smoking. It is understandable that you don’t want to get him in trouble (he is your friend, after all).

What is not understandable is his behavior. While your roommate is online ordering Naked ejuice and Nag Champa, you’re tossing and turning in bed worried about the air quality in the space where you live. Not there is anything wrong with incense and vape liquid, but we shouldn’t force other people to endure our choices. He has not learned that lesson yet. When you talked to him about the problem he said that he would take care of it, and he hasn’t. Even though we’re not doctors, we are willing to make a diagnosis of “disrespect.” College is the first time some people have to share a room with another person. Maybe this is your friend’s case, maybe not. Either way, he does not respect the fact that you live with him.

His behavior is pretty bad. Do you want to salvage the friendship? If you don’t, there is no problem in that. But if you do, you may want to talk to him about the crummy way that he is acting. You don’t have to, because educating other people on how to be good is never our responsibility. Should you, though, talking will help him become a little bit of a better person. But assuming you want to make amends, how do you want to talk to him in a way that won’t erupt into a new Civil War?

According to the Vicksburg, MS visitors bureau, which lists attractions to explore in Vicksburg, MS, the Siege of Vicksburg was the final part of the Union’s strategy to capture the Mississippi river, the so-called “Anaconda Plan.” It reflects an old military strategy: isolation. How does this apply to your case? Isolate the problems one at a time. We recommend moving out of the room before you talk to him, so that you do not have the tension of a shared space.

In the space that you are in now, it may feel a little like you are under siege. But you have to understand that maybe both of you feel that way. If you move out first, you will seem like you are the one taking positive steps to solve problems for both of your sakes. Then, when you are in a positive situation, maybe getting drinks, or coffee, or some other time when the two of you are hanging out, bring up the topic with him. The key here is being honest: don’t sugar-coat it; just tell him what a bummer it was that he would smoke in your room after you asked him not to. Remind him that you are still his friend, and that you are happy to be his friend, but that the two of your aren’t compatible as roommates. Though it is tough going right now, these rough patches can actually strengthen your friendship. Scrapes with our friends become hilarious stories given enough time. You just have to be proactive, respectful, and honest. You will get more sleep and keep a friend to boot.

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” Oprah

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