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What percentage of girls snore?

The social stigma of snoring among women – why it’s bad for her sleep and health

visual representing a woman snoring

Jun 21, 2022 Franz Stewart Snoring is not just a man’s problem. Women snore too – just as loudly – and with the same associated health risks. So why is it so often downplayed and overlooked? Just as real men can cry, real women can snore. And we need to get over it. Why? Because snoring is one of the main symptoms physicians look for when screening for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Left untreated, OSA profoundly impacts sleep quality and can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and other health issues .

Snoring – a red flag for all of us

Almost everyone snores occasionally, and it occurs in around 40% of adult women and 57% of adult men . However, according to the British Snoring & Sleep Apnea Association , studies have found that men are twice as likely to be referred for a sleep study than women. This is largely due to the fact that physicians often rely on self-reported snoring and men are more likely to seek help for snoring. Women on the other hand tend not to report their snoring symptoms – often due to embarrassment or shame. And here is where the issue lies. As said, snoring can be caused by OSA, which disrupts sleep and can lead to other health issues. Research done by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) reveals that sleep apnea is undiagnosed in more than 90% of women with moderate to severe sleep apnea . Apparently, women often experience different sleep apnea or OSA symptoms than men, like daytime fatigue, headaches and depression – and be treated for these symptoms, rather than the root cause of their sleep apnea .

Women downplay snoring

What’s more, a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine revealed that women who do report their snoring often underestimate their level of snoring . The findings showed that “although no objective difference in snoring intensity was found between women and men, there was a significant discrepancy in self-reported volume of snoring.” Simply put, compared to men, women in this study reported snoring less often and described it as milder than was actually the case. This could be one of the barriers that prevent women from reaching sleep clinics and getting the right diagnosis and care. And it doesn’t improve with age. Data from Sleep Cycle shows that women snore more as they get older: from an average of 8 minutes and 30 seconds at age 18-24 to 25-30 minutes more after age 45+. The average maximum loudness of snoring by people in the study previously mentioned was essentially the same for men and women!

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OSA: the underlying cause of snoring in older women

According to the Mayo Clinic , one in 10 middle-aged women have OSA and it’s more likely to occur after menopause (the risk increases by 4% for each subsequent year). Research also shows that women whose snoring is caused by their sleep apnea may be at an increased risk of developing heart-related issues compared to men. The reason is thought to be a combination of the post-menopausal loss of the protective hormonal effect (progesterone may prevent the relaxation of the upper airways associated with OSA) and weight gain. Moreover, some studies also indicate that the hot flashes and night sweats that menopausal women experience, may be associated with an increased risk of OSA. However, the connection may not always be one of cause and effect, but those severe menopause symptoms could still be considered as possible indicators of sleep apnea .

Other causes of snoring in females

  • Menopause: as said, menopause can reduce muscle tone in the throat, causing snoring in women. If the snoring is accompanied by pauses in breathing, it could be an indicator of sleep apnea.
  • Overweight: weight gain can lead to an excess of tissue around areas such as the belly and neck, where it can result in a smaller air passage.
  • Pregnancy: besides the weight gain, snoring during pregnancy is very common due to the changes in hormone levels, which increase the amount of blood in your body and cause blood vessels to expand. This can lead to swollen nasal passages, forcing you to breathe through your mouth and, consequently, to snore.
  • Fatigue: when women are exhausted, the muscle tissues around the throat and the larynx relax, causing snoring and making it even louder than usual.
  • PCOS: it has been reported that women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may be at higher risk of suffering from sleep apnea and snoring due to the excess of male hormones, which are linked to snoring and sleep apnea.
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Women snore – But how do you find out if you’re one of them?

So ladies – be honest with yourself. Ask your partner if you snore. If you’re unsure of whether or not you snore and need a purely objective analysis, try the snore detection feature in the Sleep Cycle app (for Android or iOS) . You can also address any concerns by compiling an accurate account of your snoring. And be sure to speak to your healthcare provider if you suspect your sleep is being disrupted by snoring or if you think you may have sleep apnea. Snoring can more often than not be treated! The reward of a good night’s sleep will always be worth the effort.

Franz Stewart

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Women snore just as much as men – but are less likely to admit it

Woman snore more than men but won't admit to it

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine detailed nearly 2000 patients who had been referred to a sleep disorder centre for evaluation. Researchers found that 88% of the women snored, but only 72% reported it. This was a stark contrast to the men; of the 93% who were snorers, all of them self-reported it.

The study also found that women snored just as loudly as their male counterparts. The average snoring intensity for the men was 51.7 decibels; women were close to matching it with an average of 50 decibels.

“Although we found no gender difference in snoring intensity, women tend to underreport the fact that they snore and underestimate the loudness of their snoring,” says Professor Nimrod Maimon, principal investigator and lecturer at BGU’s Faculty of Health Sciences and the head of internal medicine at Soroka. “The fact that women reported snoring less often and described it as milder may be one of the barriers preventing women from reaching sleep clinics for a sleep evaluation.”

Why is under-reporting a concern?

The gender disparity shown in this study is worrying; it highlights how few women self-report their loud snoring or obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which can be life-threatening if left untreated. Snoring is often the first symptom of OSA, along with:

  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • gasping/choking while you sleep
  • waking with a headache
  • poor concentration

Around 2.5 million people in the UK are thought to have OSA, but only 33,000 have the treatment they need. Roughly 80% of cases are undiagnosed, with women much less likely to report their symptoms to their doctor.

Why don’t women admit to snoring?

Although it’s an issue for millions, there’s still a social stigma attached to snoring in women. Many believe that it’s a “man’s problem”, and that to admit to snoring makes them less feminine or desirable. Others simply refuse to believe that they’re capable of making the same deafening sounds their partners produce during the night.

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But snoring is a very common issue in women. It often arises during pregnancy and menopause, becoming more apparent with age. Snoring can affect women at any point in their lives, whether it’s down to genetic disposition, medication, colds or allergies. Lifestyle choices (drinking, weight gain, smoking) also play a part in snoring developing.

If you’re a female snorer, it’s important that you make sure you’re not at risk of obstructive sleep apnoea. Ignoring OSA can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Talking to your doctor about your snoring might be a little embarrassing, but it can hugely improve your health and your sleep in the long run.

Self-care starts with your snoring

There are plenty of reasons why women snore. In many cases, simple lifestyle changes can help reduce it (cutting down on alcohol, quitting cigarettes, and losing weight).

Targeted treatments might also help. The Snoreeze YouGov survey found that 70% more males than females have purchased a snoring relief product for themselves. Lots of women don’t realise that there are different types of snoring – and each type can be treated with a different product.

If you’re unsure about what kind of snorer you might be, click here to find out more. Taking charge of your snoring can help you lead a healthier, happier, more active life – so don’t put it off any longer.

Women lie about whether they snore: study

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April 24, 2019 2:48pm
April 24, 2019 4:11pm

snoring woman

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Never ask a woman her age, weight … or whether she snores.

That last bit of info comes from a new study of 1,913 adults believed to be suffering from sleep disorders.

“We found that although no difference in snoring intensity was found between genders, women tend to underreport the fact that they snore and … underestimate the loudness of their snoring,” says the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Nimrod Maimon, professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and head internist at Soroka University Medical Center in Be’er Sheva, Israel. The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

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Participants in the study had been referred to the sleep docs for evaluation of potential sleep disorders. The patients, whose average age was 49, were given a survey asking them to assess their own snoring. They were also observed overnight, so researchers could measure the snores for themselves.

They found that 88 percent of the 675 women participants snored, but just 72 percent copped to it. Men, on the other hand, actually overreported their snoring: Slightly more than 93 percent said they sawed wood, but scientists observed it in slightly fewer (92.6 percent) of them.

The researchers also found that, while the women were generally smaller than the men, they snored just as loudly. They devised a snoring intensity scale, ranked into four levels: mild (40 to 45 decibels), moderate (46 to 55), severe (56 to 60) and very severe (more than 60 decibels).

Men on average topped out at 51.7 decibels, but women weren’t far behind, at 50. Overall, about 49 percent of the women had severe or very severe snoring, yet only 40 percent of the women rated their snoring at that level.

Snoring isn’t just a nuisance for your bedmate: It’s often a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, where the upper airway collapses during sleep. The disorder has been associated with many other illnesses, including Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes, and is believed to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Research suggests that sleep apnea sufferers may even have “significantly thinner” skulls, which could lead to a potentially fatal condition called spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid leak.

Researchers worry that the negative stigma associated with snoring may prevent women from agreeing to participate in a sleep study, says Maimon. He suggests doctors look for other signs in women, such as daytime fatigue, that might indicate sleep apnea.

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