In sitcoms and comics about snoring in couples, it’s almost always the man who snores. Although this disparity is somewhat exaggerated, it is nonetheless true that more men snore than women. About 40% of men snore, compared to just 24% of women. The reason why comes down to a complicated combination of anatomy, hormones, lifestyle, and social expectations.
At the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center, our Omaha sleep dentists can help everyone get a good night’s sleep. Whether you’re a man or a woman, a snorer or a snorer’s partner, we’re prepared to help you sleep more soundly.
What Causes Snoring
Before we get into details about why men snore more than women, it’s important to review what causes snoring. Snoring occurs when your airway narrows. This narrowed airway causes turbulence when you breathe in and out–there’s not enough room to allow air to flow smoothly. The turbulence creates vibrations in the airway that can be heard as sound.
Male Anatomy Contributes to Snoring
Probably the biggest contributor to the gender difference in snoring is anatomy. Both men and women have changes in their airways when they lie down, but for men, the changes are more pronounced.
Men have a larger throat with more muscles. These muscles press down on the airway during sleep, causing it to narrow. In addition, men tend to store more fat in the chest and throat area (including the tongue), which also causes the airway to narrow.
Men’s large airway means that if they do snore, it’s more likely to be loud and disruptive. Small women also snore often, but it is more likely to be a quiet, tolerable snore. That’s part of the reason why our Omaha sleep dentists hear more complaints from wives about their husbands’ snoring.
Hormones Protect from Snoring
Although men snore more throughout their lives than women do, the difference in snoring narrows dramatically once women pass menopause. By age 60, there is no statistical difference in the proportions of men and women snorers.
This difference has led researchers to propose that estrogen and progesterone might provide some protection against snoring, perhaps by helping the muscles of the airway stay active.
Men’s Lifestyles Contribute to Snoring
There are many lifestyle choices that men make which contribute to their increased snoring risk.
First, there’s being overweight. Carrying extra weight is a lifestyle disease that makes a big difference in snoring. About 77% of men are overweight or obese, compared to 69% of women. That means that men are more likely to have extra weight on their throats. Plus, remember that men are more likely to store fat in their throat area, making snoring more likely.
In addition to this, there’s alcohol consumption. Consuming alcohol at night causes the muscles of the airway to relax, which lets the airway collapse more, increasing snoring. Although both men and women tend to drink alcohol at the same rate (68% vs. 64% respectively), men are more likely to consume alcohol to excess. Men consume about three times as much alcohol as women over the course of a year.
Similarly, smoking affects snoring. Smoking dries out and irritates the airway, leading to inflammation (swelling), which narrows the airway. Nationwide, about 17% of men smoke, compared to about 14% of women. Although this is a relatively small difference, it does still contribute to the disparity in snoring between the genders.
Social expectations also play a role in the reported percentage of men and women who snore. Because most people know that men are more likely to snore than women, women are less likely to report snoring.
In fact, in one recent study of nearly 2000 people, women snored just as frequently and just as loudly as men. It should be noted that all the subjects in this study were referred to a sleep lab for sleep studies. This means that the rate of snoring in the study is unlikely to reflect the true rate in the population. However, what it does reflect is how readily people will admit to snoring. In this study, 28% of the women getting ready to take a sleep test declared that they didn’t snore at all. The actual number who didn’t snore? Just 9%. For men, about 7% said they didn’t snore when in actuality, only 4% didn’t snore.
These results show just how significantly social expectations can make women reluctant to admit snoring.
Help for All Snorers in Omaha
If you are a snorer or if you sleep with a snorer, the Omaha sleep dentists at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center are ready to help. We don’t discriminate between snorers, and we never judge people for their snoring. We want to help you–and everyone in your house–sleep all night so you can live all day.
To learn how we can help you sleep better, please call (402) 493-4175 or use our online form to contact the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center for an appointment with one of our Omaha sleep dentists.