When most of us think about snoring, we tend to think of men snoring. After all, it’s not only a trope on TV sitcoms, but most of us remember our fathers or grandfathers snoring on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner. But the truth is that snoring is also a problem for women, and a bigger one than most of us have been led to believe. In this article we will discuss the many answers to the question “Why do women snore”? As well as giving you tips on how to deal with it.
Why You Should Concerned About it
It sounds funny, but snoring could be silently impacting your physical health, mental health, and relationship health. Snoring is often associated with daytime symptoms that we can easily ascribe to other causes. Things like fatigue, tiredness, anxiety, and depression.
Additionally, snoring is also associated with all the following physical disorders.
- Weight Gain
- Kidney Problems
- Heart Disease
- Heart Failure
- Peripheral Artery Disease
- Sleep Apnea
Snoring has also been shown to have a negative effect on relationships. After all, waking up tired all the time makes us irritable, edgy, and just not pleasant to be around. And while everyone is entitled to a bad day now and then, when the condition becomes chronic it’s time to do something about it before the relationship is irreversibly harmed.
While it may sound drastic, some people decide to get a “Sleep Divorce”. This is essentially when the partners sleep in separate bedrooms. For some, this works fine, however it’s far from an ideal solution. A sleep divorce can have an obvious detrimental effect on a couple’s physical intimacy and when that happens, losing the emotional intimacy with your partner is not far behind.
Why do Women Snore? Just the Facts.
The word snoring just refers to the sound made by air flowing through an obstructed airway. This obstruction can be due to constriction of the airway, excess or lax tissue which falls into the airway, or even just having a small airway to begin with.
So, why is it that men have higher rates of snoring than women (at least when we are younger)? The answer seems to be that woman’s airways are naturally larger than men’s. This combined with the fact that young men generally are larger and drink more alcohol than young women is the reason they snore at higher rates.
It is generally accepted that over a lifetime, approximately 40% of men and 25% of women snore. However, that is not the entire picture. While the rate of male snorers tends to remain constant over time. As women age, their rate of snoring goes up.
As you can see, by the time a woman becomes menopausal their rate of snoring equals that of males. So, just what is happening?
How Lifestyle Affects Snoring
As we have noted, generally woman’s airways are larger men’s. This allows for the air to flow into the lungs unrestricted. This larger airway does not shrink with age, so why do the incidents of snoring rise as women age? Part of the answer lies in the lifestyle habits that can develop over time.
- Weight gain– When we gain weight, excess tissue is formed and distributed throughout the body. This includes the nose, mouth, and throat. This excess tissue can become lax when we sleep causing it to fall into the back of the throat blocking the airway. The problem with this scenario is that the sleep interruption caused by snoring actually contributes to weight gain which causes the snoring to get worse. (see – Snoring Sleep Apnea and Weight Loss)
- Alcohol consumption – A lot of people consume alcohol at night to help them get to sleep. Unfortunately, while it will help you fall asleep, alcohol reduces the amount of regenerative rest we get when sleeping. Part of this is due to snoring. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, as such it relaxes all the muscles in the body (that’s why we lose coordination when we drink). When the muscles in the mouth, nose and throat relax it allows any excess tissue to hang loose blocking the airway and causes snoring.
- Smoking – Smoking causes inflammation of the tissues in the mouth, nose, and throat. This inflammation shrinks the airways causing you to snore. You don’t need to be told, but if you smoke, quit!!
- Medications – In addition to alcohol, some medications (especially for anxiety and sleep) can cause the muscles in the nose, mouth, and throat to relax too much. This allows tissue that the muscles would normally hold out of the airway to fall into it causing snoring.
While all of these are lifestyle issues that can affect both sexes. Some issues are only related to female snoring.
Why do Women Snore? How the Female Lifecycle Affects Snoring
The normal hormonal fluctuations that occur over a lifetime are a significant contributing factor to why women snore. The hormones that are known to affect snoring include:
- Estrogen – The female sex hormone estrogen plays a major factor in snoring for women. Estrogen is formed in the ovaries, first and foremost to ensures that the ovum matures properly, and it also supports bone formation. Additionally, estrogen also influences serotonin levels.
- Serotonin – This is a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is also an endorphin, which means that it produces an analgesic or “happy” feeling. It is also important in maintaining muscle tension. When estrogen levels go down, serotonin levels also decrease. As a consequence, muscle tone decreases and the airways become laxer during the night which makes them more prone to collapse.
- Menopause – This is when the rate of snoring in woman really increases. During menopause, women lose muscle tone all over the body, and this includes the mouth, nose, and throat. It is also a time when weight gain is common. In essence, it’s a one two punch. weight gain causes excess tissue and the muscle laxity allows the tissue to fall into the throat blocking the airway. Women who suffer from premature ovarian failure (POF) for instance, are already estrogen-deficient at an early age, which means they already have an increased risk of snoring at a younger age.
Other Issues That can Cause Snoring in Woman Include:
- Oral Contraception – Sometimes younger women will begin to snore when they start taking oral contraception (the birth control pill). When first starting on the pill it can disrupt the normal hormone balance in the body causing snoring. Normally after a few days the body re-balances the hormones and the snoring goes away. If that isn’t the case, it makes sense to think about switching to a different medication.
- Pregnancy – Up to 1/3 of pregnant women snore. This increase in snoring can be attributed to a couple of factors. First, weight gain in pregnancy can cause narrowing of the airway as can the pressure from the uterus up into the diaphragm. Additionally, the hormones released in pregnancy cause the mucus membranes in the nose that throat to swell causing congestion when laying down.
Please note that most of the time, snoring during pregnancy is nothing more than a minor annoyance and will resolve on it’s own. However, it can sometimes be a sign of gestational diabetes, so always talk to your doctor.
Why do Women Snore? Simple Solutions to Help You Stop
There is no need for you or your partner to suffer with snoring. Most of the time there is a simple and effective cure for your type of snoring. It’s just a matter of finding the solution that works best for you. Keep in mind that a lot of the time using a combination of snoring solutions will work best as most people are multifactorial snorers. The key is to not give up. Keep trying solutions until you find the right ones for you.
- Maintain a healthy weight – This can be an unfortunate Catch-22. As studies have shown that snoring contributes to weight gain and weight gain makes snoring worse. However, we do know that even a minor weight loss can significantly improve snoring. This in turn can make weight loss easier. In any event, it has been shown that people with a “normal BMI” (25 or lower) had significantly less snoring than people whose BMI was above 26.
- Try changing your pillow – There could be a couple of things going on with your pillow that contribute to snoring. First, if you have had your pillow for a while, dust, dirt and dead skin can build up in it. This can cause an allergic reaction making the mucus membranes in the nose, mouth, and throat swell up blocking the airway. The other issue is that the pillow may not be giving your head enough support. Having a pillow that supports your head can help to keep any excess tissue from falling into the throat blocking the airway. You can check out a bunch of different anti-snoring pillows here.
- Keep your nasal passages open – Whether you suffer from a cold or seasonal allergies, keeping the nasal passages open and clear will ease your breathing and reduce snoring. There are many ways to do this including using a neti pot, nasal strips, nasal dilators (for more relief than nasal strips) or taking a decongestant before bed (check with your doctor if you are pregnant).
- Avoid alcohol before bed – As we noted earlier, alcohol relaxes all the muscles in the body. That includes the muscles that would normally hold excess tissue in the mouth, nose and throat from falling into the throat blocking the airway.
- Try anti-snoring exercises – These exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles in the neck, throat, and mouth, keeping any excess tissues from blocking the airway. Here are the exercises. 1) Repeat each vowel (a-e-i-o-u) out loud for three minutes a few times a day. 2) Place the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth. Slide your tongue backwards for three minutes a day. 3) With your mouth open, contract the muscle at the back of your throat repeatedly for 30 seconds. Tip: Look in the mirror to see the uvula (“the hanging ball”) move up and down. 4) With your mouth open, move your jaw to the right and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
- Change your sleep position – Most of us snore when we sleep on our backs. Try sleeping on your side or stomach if possible. Some people even sew a tennis ball into the back of their pajamas to keep from sleeping on their back.
- Get a couple of humidifiers for your room– While dry air might not be the main cause of your snoring, it can certainly aggravate it. So get a couple of humidifiers to keep the air in your room nice and moist. The added moisture in the air will help lubricate your throat. Making it easier for air to flow in and out without causing any noisy vibrations.
Anti-Snoring Products to Try
While we always suggest that you try the free or low-cost solutions first. Sometimes persistent snorers need to call in the big guns. The following products have all been show to be effective for snoring and come with guarantees so that you can make sure that they are the right fit for you.
- Anti-snoring mouthpieces – These are also called MAD’s, it stands for Mandible Advancement Device. They look like the mouthguards that athletes use. They work by holding the lower jaw in place (forward) so that it doesn’t relax and fall to the back of the throat blocking the airway. Studies have shown that up to 95% of people experience less snoring using a MAD device. Check out Snore Meds MAD specifically designed for women here.
- Tongue stabilizing devices – These work on a similar premise: they hold your tongue in place when you sleep so that it can’t fall to the back of the throat. They look a little funny but work well for those who are tongue snorers. You can check them out here.
- Adjustable beds – This is a great solution for snoring because it’s non-invasive, you can find just the right position to not only stop snoring but to be comfortable all night long. Plus, it’s good for other activities you may like to do in the bedroom! Check out our review of adjustable beds here.
- Smart Nora – The Smart Nora is one of the newest, high tech devices designed to combat snoring. It’s unlike any other anti-snoring device out there. It uses WIFI and smart technology as opposed to fitted appliances to tackle the problem. It works by listening for the very first sounds of snoring. Once it detects that, it adjusts the height of your pillow automatically. This does two things. First, it causes the muscles in the neck and throat to contract pulling any tissue out of the airway. Secondly, by slightly raising your head, it moves the blockage out of the airway eliminating snoring. You can get more information on the Smart Nora here.
Why do Women Snore? And What You Can do About it: Conclusion
Snoring really is an equal opportunity malady. And because it’s less recognized in females than males. Women are much less likely to have it treated. This is a serious mistake. Snoring can have a devastating effect on your physical, emotional and relationship’s health.
Taking care of you or your partner’s snoring problem is usually quick, easy, and painless. So, it really doesn’t make sense to let something so easily treatable affect your health and relationships. After all, no one really wants a “Sleep Divorce”.
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