How I beat my snoring habit, by soap star Shaun

The former EastEnders actor Shaun Williamson talks to Abi Jackson about the ‘wake-up call’ that left him determined to tackle his snoring.
How I beat my snoring habit, by soap star Shaun

Snoring can have an impact on relationships. Picture posed by models

SNORING is often the subject of jokes but for those affected, it’s no laughing matter - as former EastEnders star Shaun Williamson knows only too well.

The actor, who says he’s “always snored”, explains things came to a head recently when he and wife Adele were staying at a hotel.

“And this is the crux of the story, because there’s no escape route, there’s no going into the spare room, we’re in a hotel room,” recalls Williamson, 56, who played Barry on the popular BBC soap from 1994 to 2004.

“In the morning, I woke up and she wasn’t looking happy. She played back a recording - she’d recorded it during the night - and said, ‘That was five hours, midnight to 5am you were snoring, I couldn’t wake you up’.”

Another hotel guest had even knocked on their door at 4am, as it was so loud.

“That was a bit of a wake-up call,” admits the affable entertainer, acknowledging that snoring can be tough on partners. “It splits some marriages up. It can have a really profound effect on relationships.”

Williamson - who’s been married to forensic scientist Adele since 2018 (he was previously married to Melanie Sacre with whom he shares two grown-up children) - has now teamed up with Mute, who make nasal dilators designed to reduce snoring.

The brand recently surveyed more than 1,000 UK adults and found being subjected to the sound of snoring is indeed a big deal, with 31% saying they become enraged as a result, 15% saying they may cry, and 16% saying it makes them hysterical.

When asked how it felt hearing his wife’s recording of his snoring, Williamson says: “You’re not proud of yourself. It’s a very selfish thing to inflict on your partner, but of course, you’re not doing it on purpose. It was quite shocking.

“You’ll know what it’s like if someone’s ruined your sleep for you for one night, maybe noisy neighbours having a party, then you’re pretty cranky. Imagine that for 50 years? It is pretty grim for partners.”

Snoring can happen for a range of reasons, but is often linked with things like being overweight, sleeping on your back, smoking and alcohol.

In some cases, snoring may be associated with sleep apnoea - a potentially serious medical condition where people stop breathing briefly during their sleep - so it’s important to speak to your doctor if this is a concern.

Shaun Williamson doing interviews as he teams up with Mute to help stop his snoring
Shaun Williamson doing interviews as he teams up with Mute to help stop his snoring

“I don’t do myself any favours, I like a nightcap and I’m overweight,” says Williamson. “But ironically, snoring can be very pernicious, it can pick on anyone at any time.”

He’s tried various solutions over the years, but none have been as effective for him as Mute.

“It’s a nasal stent, basically, you put it in your nose because at night, the reason a lot of people snore is their nasal passages tend to restrict and it forces you to breathe through the mouth.

“That’s when you get that really deep, guttural snore that really reverberates through the house. So just by keeping the nasal passages open, we found you do get a much better night’s sleep.

“And certainly, my wife reported that my snoring turned more into sort of deep heavy breathing, so occasionally I wake up now and she’s [still] in the bed with me,” Williamson shares.

It means he’s also getting better quality sleep, too.

“I’m a great napper, I usually have an afternoon nap - but when I say nap, I mean properly getting back into bed, more of an afternoon sleep,” he explains.

“But sometimes since I’ve been using this, I’ve found I just haven’t needed one, so that’s been a real bonus.”

Since leaving EastEnders, Williamson’s had a string of different acting gigs, most notably alongside Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant in their sitcom Extras, as well as lots of theatre and panto and a stint on Celebrity Big Brother in 2017.

During the Cobid-19 pandemic, he says he was fortunate to land work hosting remote quizzes for various companies (he also wrote a book on quizzing called A Matter Of Facts, published in 2020) - and of course there’s ‘Barrioke’, which, as the name suggests, involves Williamson singing karaoke on stage with participants, alongside some trademark banter.

Aside from tackling the snoring, what does self-care look like for him these days?

“Well, I need to practise more of that,” he says. “I get into terrible habits because for years, I worked in theatre.

“As soon as I left EastEnders in 2004 really, right through to the pandemic, I was doing at least two touring shows a year and pantos. And personally, I can’t eat before I go on stage, not a big meal, so you get yourself into this habit - and it’s a bad spiral of having a few drinks when you come off stage at 10pm and then you eat at midnight.

“So my aim is to get out of the habit of the late meal, particularly when I’m not working, and drinking less at night.

“Hopefully, if I’m sleeping better, then I think I can achieve it.”

His workout of choice is a good walk in nature. “I do a lot of walking,” he says. “I live on a lovely island, Isle of Sheppey [in Kent], and there’s a lot of nature reserves and things like that.

“So I go for long walks, and that’s also good for your brain - you can think all your problems out. It works for me and it’s low-impact.”

Shaun Williamson is working with nasal dilator Mute (mutesnoring.com) to help him stop snoring. They are available in three sizes from Amazon UK and all good chemists, from £12.99 for a trial pack and £16.99 for a month’s supply.

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