Model of Snoring
S. Lee Papnea
It’s my belief we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.
—“Trudy,” The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe
The standard orthodoxy is that snoring is the result of a breathing obstruction during sleeping. We challenge that orthodoxy and introduce a novel complainogenic model of snoring based on an earlier more general complainogenic model of language, from the groundbreaking but largely unappreciated work of Wagner and Tomlin (1977), and pithily summarized in the quote above. As with many basic drives that are not strictly necessary for life—such as the lust for status, power, and sex—we all too easily fool ourselves into thinking that civilization is anything more than a thin veneer shoddily papering over our baser urges.
Let us undertake a quick survey of available treatments for snoring. Behavioral modifications include losing weight, stopping smoking, and avoiding alcohol in the evening. Devices that can alleviate snoring in some patients include orthopedic pillows, dental appliances, and positive airway pressure machines. One activity that may lessen snoring is taking up the didgeridoo as an allegedly “musical” instrument, strengthening throat musculature. We do not question whether these treatments are effective, as their value is well-documented in the medical literature. Rather, we question the mechanism of action.
The fundamental theory of complainogenesis posits that (a) humans have a deep-seated need to complain, and (b) the need to complain is an important force behind the emergence of language. Part (a) seems all but undeniable, and common folk wisdom has encapsulated it in a cute aphorism: “The more you complain, the longer God lets you live.” (Theolinguistics being beyond the scope of the current discussion, we will not, alas, return to this subject.) Part (b)—the relationship between complaining and the emergence of language—is not as well accepted.
We believe that modern linguistic approaches to the matter—especially seen through the lens of the snoring-related facts and interpretations we will present—provide circumstantial but ultimately compelling evidence of the more general complainogenic model of language.
We postulate that—similar to the way that our bodies detect an excess of carbon dioxide rather than more directly recognizing a lack of oxygen—the primary detection mode relevant to complaining is not the complaining itself, but rather the concomitant loud, often comparatively low-pitched and annoying rumbling that accompanies it. When a lack of such grumbling is detected by the body, the deficit is corrected as snoring, which directly generates the required sound—efficiently and in quantity—during sleep.
Many devices and behavioral modifications to treat snoring—orthopedic pillows, dental appliances, losing weight, stopping smoking, reducing evening alcohol intake—all directly increase complaining. Playing the didgeridoo produces the complaining indicator—a low-pitched, annoying rumble; it has the added benefit of producing ancillary complaining in others beside the player, possibly reducing their snoring as well. CPAP machines produce both an annoying mechanical hum and complaints from the users.
Spectrographic evidence shows the striking similarities:
Subject playing didgeridoo.
Subject’s CPAP machine.