Judy MacDonald faces a near-nightly domestic conflict. When she wakes around 2 a.m. to her husband’s snoring, she has to decide between migrating to another room or toughing it out beside him in bed and watching TV to block out the noise.
If Judy and her husband, Ross, were in the market for a home today, they could snap one up with a feature designed to solve the problem of late-night sleep incompatibility: The snore room.
Builders specializing in communities for “active seniors” over 55, such as PulteGroup’s Del Webb brand and D.R. Horton, are offering new home designs featuring snore rooms near the master bedroom for couples who can’t always catch a good night’s sleep together due to differing schedules, nocturnal habits or medical conditions.
The concept of the snore room isn’t unknown: Celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and “Judge Judy” Scheindlin and her husband, reportedly have snore rooms in their homes. Crowne Plaza, the international hotel chain, began testing “snore absorption” rooms this year to cut down on noise in 10 hotels in European and Middle Eastern locations.
But for 55-and-up communities, the concept of a snore room is an outgrowth of the realities couples like the McDonalds experience: Many older adults get into bed together but wind up unable to make it through the night together.
Indeed, as many as 23 percent of married couples don’t sleep side-by-side through the night, up from 12 percent in 2001, according to research cited by Del Webb.
“The chat we hear about on the sales floor is often about nocturnal sleeping habits,” says Andy Pfeifer, VP of sales for PulteGroup in Tennessee. “What we’d see happen before we offered our new floor plan option was that one spouse would be relegated to a secondary bedroom.”
McDonald, an Arizona retiree, said she wishes the concept was available when she and her husband bought in 2008. On the one hand, she doesn’t want to leave the master bedroom to make the trek to the sofa or guest room, which is often occupied by visitors anyway. On the other hand, if she stays at her husband’s side counting sheep while infomercials roll, she won’t get a good night’s rest either.
“It’d be nice to have a little room for when my husband wakes me. I’d be much more likely to use that room than to wander out to the sofa,” says McDonald. “Usually I don’t go in the other room. I turn the TV on, and sometimes it’ll wake him up, and sometimes it won’t.”
Del Webb and D.R. Horton don't specifically refer to snoring but market the new areas as optional “dual owner suites” (Del Webb) or “alternate dual master suites” (D.R. Horton). Both builders say these elements don’t typically change the overall size or price of a home. At Del Webb, for instance, a dual owner suite may mean trimming a little garage storage space or slightly reducing the size of a walk-in closet.
Del Webb has begun offering the dual owner suite configuration as a customization option at communities in Houston and Nashville and will be available in Southern California starting this fall, according to a spokeswoman. D.R. Horton, which is building model homes showcasing the designs at sites in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
John and Jaunita Veasy, a couple in Tennessee, were intrigued by the idea of a dual owner’s suite when they learned of its availability. They’re among the first two buyers to choose one at Lake Providence by Del Webb, a 55-and-up community outside Nashville. Their home should be completed in October.
Jaunita says she and her husband chose the home design because they keep such different schedules. She is still working full time and goes to sleep at 8, rising around 3 a.m. He goes to sleep between 10 and 11 p.m., rising between 6 and 7 a.m.
“If I get up and turn on the TV it wakes him up,” she says. “And sometimes he wakes up at 2 in the morning and makes popcorn, and that wakes me up.”
So their home will offer a room linked to the master bedroom via a pass-through bathroom, but also accessible via a hallway. The couple plan to arrange the room with a day bed and television as well as desk space for Jaunita when she gets up and wants to get on her computer or watch TV.
“In today’s active adult and empty nester communities it's about choice and adaptable home designs,” says Jessica Swanson, a spokeswoman for D.R. Horton.
She adds the room designs aren’t just for senior couples but also can serve extended families. “Flexible home designs such as this are perfect for dual-generation active adults that live in the same home.”
“It’s not something for everybody,” says Andrew Wong, VP of Strategic Markting at PulteGroup. “No one says, ‘I want another bedroom for my spouse.’ But many say they wind up sleeping separately by the end of the night, even though they start out in bed together.”
The Veasy family says simply that the room offers “dual-purpose” functionality.
“I looked at the floor plan when this became available, and I thought, ‘This is pretty wild,’” says John Veasy. “Because of her late-night antics, we took this option to make the space a dual-purpose room.”
Jane Hodges is a freelance writer based in Seattle.