The stereotype of snoring is that big men are big snorers. There is some truth to this: men with a large neck circumference are much more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea. And one of the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring.

This does not mean, however, that women don’t snore. In fact, a new survey by a retailer of anti-snoring pillows showed that their biggest customers were also their smallest: 31% of female sales went to women who weighed less than 70 kg (about 150 pounds) and less than 1.65 m tall (about 5’ 1”), and 61% of the respondents were women saying they were the snorers in their house. Hopefully, this can help everyone get past the stigma of snoring and seek help for their snoring.

woman asleep and snoring

Little Airways Are Easily Disrupted

While the findings of this study seem surprising at first, if you think about it, they actually aren’t that shocking. Women who are small also have small airways. These small airways are more sensitive to disruptions. Consider, for example, how even a minor allergic reaction can be dangerous for a child. It doesn’t take much swelling to cause a small airway to narrow so much that it closes. While small women might not have to worry that their airway will close completely (though it could, see more about sleep apnea below), their airway could easily narrow, which could constrict the flow of air. This creates turbulent airflow, which causes vibrations in the throat, which leads to snoring.

The disruption could be anything. It could be swelling from a minor allergy or irritation, or perhaps a buildup of phlegm from a minor cold. It might be a little bit of weight gain, or the bending of the neck in such a way that it creates a pinch point. Or maybe it’s just the natural relaxation of muscles that occurs at night. All of these could cause just enough narrowing that it causes snoring.

Women Don’t Admit Snoring because of Stigma

Despite the fact that women, especially small women, might be among the most common snorers, they are less likely to seek help for their condition. That’s because they are more likely to be embarrassed. Since most people associate snoring with large men, women feel like they must have a problem if they are also snoring. Already very weight-conscious due to society’s biased expectations, they are less likely to want to publicly admit that they have a condition related to weight gain.

That’s why it’s important for everyone to understand that snoring has many causes, and that anyone could be a snorer, including small women. The stigma is so pervasive that doctors even invented a different name for the condition that affects small women: UARS (upper airway resistance syndrome), which is, essentially, sleep disordered breathing, including snoring and sleep apnea.

Women and their doctors need to understand that this is a potentially serious condition that needs to be considered and treated if necessary.

Do You Have Sleep Apnea?

Of course, another important factor to consider here is that snoring is often a warning sign for sleep apnea. Women and their doctors may think that they aren’t at risk for this potentially deadly condition. Women who snore might be more likely to seek solutions online so they don’t have to admit to their partner or even their doctor that they have a problem. And women might avoid treatment for sleep apnea because the thought of wearing a CPAP mask fills them with shame.

This can put them at serious risk, because several studies show that sleep apnea might have more serious health consequences for women than for men.

We have to work harder to eliminate the stigma surrounding snoring and sleep apnea for women so that they can get diagnosed and treated for the condition. In addition, it’s important to offer sleep apnea treatments that are sensitive to women’s feelings, treatments that can be discreet, comfortable, and effective.

If you are a woman who wants to learn more about an effective, comfortable, and discreet snoring solution in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.