What causes snoring in females? Snoring is a common problem, and while men are statistically more inclined to be habitual snorers than women are (and sleep apnoea is twice as common in men), women also experience these medical issues.
The causes of snoring, however, differ somewhat between males and females. Additionally, snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea are underreported and underdiagnosed when it comes to female sufferers – and this has enormous health implications, despite many women underestimating and downplaying the severity and consequences of their snoring.
How Does Snoring in Females Differ to Males?
Did you Know?
- As many as 50% of middle-aged men habitually snore.
- 25% of middle-aged women snore.
- The severity of female snoring peaks at age 60-65.
- One in ten middle-aged women experiences obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
Anyone who snores moderately or severely or has OSA will experience:
- Restless, disrupted sleep
- Gasping and choking
- Loud snoring (not usually as intense in women)
As a result of snoring, women, in particular, will often also experience:
- Headaches, especially on waking
- Daytime fatigue
- Heightened stress levels
- Depression & anxiety
These additional symptoms often lead females to seek medical advice. Unfortunately, the cause of them is frequently misdiagnosed and consequently treated inappropriately. One example of this is prescribing antidepressant medication when snoring or OSA, rather than a mood disorder, is the cause of the symptoms.
What Causes Snoring in Females?
Sleeping position, genetics, individual anatomy, obesity, and lifestyle habits can all cause snoring. When it comes to snoring in females, obesity plays a significant role and, in women, weight gain and obesity are closely associated with hormonal factors.
- Obesity: According to the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Foundation (BSSAA), extreme obesity is twice as common in females. Women are also more likely to have a higher distribution of fat in their neck, which contributes to snoring based in the lower airway (i.e., in the throat below the base of the tongue ).
Men more commonly carry excess fat in the mouth and upper airway. They’re also more likely to have abnormal anatomy contributing to their snoring. Furthermore, testosterone exacerbates snoring.
- Hormones: Medical research into female snoring suggests that the integrity of the muscles of the upper airways, including the soft palate, tongue, and nasopharynx (the back of the upper throat behind the nasal passages) are protected somewhat by female hormones (oestrogen and progesterone). These hormone levels diminish dramatically at menopause. Thereafter, snoring and OSA increase. Postmenopausal women who are prescribed menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), also called hormone replacement therapy (HRT), display a noteworthy improvement in snoring and OSA.
- Diabetes: Type II diabetes is influenced by sex hormones – oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The condition is more common in women during pregnancy, after menopause, and in women with the hormonal disorder Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It can also be triggered by snoring, as snoring prevents quality sleep and diminishes blood oxygen levels. The effect of this is to increase blood insulin levels – hence, just as diabetes can cause snoring, snoring can also contribute to diabetes.
- Hypothyroidism: Many of the snoring symptoms women experience can also be caused by an underactive thyroid gland. Females who have an underactive thyroid gland are more inclined to snore. Hypothyroidism is also strongly linked to obesity.
Pregnancy and exhaustion also contribute to snoring in females.
How are Snoring Risk Factors Different Between Women and Men?
Based on a study published in 2018, the cardiac (heart) risk for women with OSA was significantly greater than that for men. Moreover, the way cardiac effects in snorers manifests also differed.
The study saw volunteer participants from the UK Biobank have their hearts scanned. The participants included a large cohort of men and women, including those who had been diagnosed with OSA, habitual snorers, and non-snorers. Researchers discovered that men and women who snored or had OSA had enlarged left ventricular walls – this meant that their hearts had to work much harder to effectively pump blood.
What was especially concerning was that women who snored demonstrated a much greater cardiac change than in men who snored, suggesting greater cardiac impairment in females. It was also determined that many of these women may have undiagnosed OSA.
OSA, or obstructive sleep apnoea, can be a direct contributor to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, ineffective blood sugar metabolism (leading to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, weight gain, and Type II diabetes), and even some types of cancer. OSA actively disrupts breathing – and sufferers literally stop breathing during sleep. OSA also has implications for performance, mental health, and workplace/road safety. These risks are also enhanced in snorers.
Treatment of Snoring in Females
Men are statistically more inclined to seek medical advice for their snoring and to be referred on for a clinical sleep study. Part of the reason for this is the stereotype that only men snore. Also, many women (and their GPs) are reluctant to recognize and properly treat the issue.
Treating snoring is crucial for general health and obstructive sleep apnoea must be medically diagnosed and professionally treated.
Many snoring treatments and sleep apnoea treatments apply to both men and women, including lifestyle modification and weight loss.
Scientists are investigating whether hormone replacement therapy might be a valuable treatment for snoring in females. Based on current evidence, HRT may reduce snoring in menopausal women to rates comparable with premenopausal women. This needs much more research for definitive results.
A Solution to Stop Snoring – ApneaRx
Snoring in females must be better understood and preventative action must be taken for general health and wellbeing.
ApneaRx is a simple, safe, effective, and affordable anti-snoring device. Marketed in NZ, it is the local brand of the revolutionary mandibular adjustment device that is used successfully by people worldwide to help stop snoring.
ApneaRx is a comfortable device worn in the mouth to gently reposition the lower jaw, open the airways, and alleviate some of the causes of snoring.