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Yes, women snore. In fact, about 24 percent of women -- about 30 million -- are habitual snorers, meaning they snore almost every night while sleeping. And while women may be loud, they are certainly not proud. In fact, they are embarrassed. It’s this shame that may stop many women from solving a snoring problem and keep them from unlocking the health benefits that lay on the other side of a good night’s rest. It’s that good sleep that recharges us for our lives and roles as parents, partners, and professionals.
Snoring is caused by what we call upper airway turbulence, which leads to vibrations of the soft palate and uvula (that little flap that hangs down at the back of your throat). Snoring typically increases with age, as we lose muscle tone in our palate. While men do make up a larger percentage of snorers, women account for 33% of all adult snorers. Women, however, may snore for different reasons at different phases of their lives.
One in 3 women report snoring during pregnancy, often during the third trimester. The vast majority of those women had never snored before. Most pregnant women snore due to nasal congestion. Increased swelling in their nasal passages may block airways. Snoring also may result from the increase in abdominal girth and the uterus pressing on the diaphragm, or from added weight around the neck. When a pregnant woman does not get enough oxygen it puts her and her baby at risk for health issues.
RELATED CONTENT: Pregnancy Snoring: What to Expect When You're Are Expecting.
Men snore about twice as often as women, but that begins to shift when women hit their forties and after menopause, it’s about even. Menopause is a time of major hormonal, physical and psychological change for women. Post-menopausal women are generally less satisfied with their sleep. One of the reasons is snoring, which has been found to be more common and severe in post-menopausal women. Snoring at this time is due to a number of factors, including hormonal changes that result in loss of muscle tone in the upper airways, and weight gain.
Snoring may develop, or worsen, as a woman ages and there are several reasons for that. Women experience loss of muscle tone in the upper airway and the soft palate becomes more susceptible to vibration (aka, snoring!). Weight gain may come with older age as some women become more sedentary. Extra weight in the neck goes hand-in-hand with snoring. Taking medications may also result in snoring. For example, insomnia medications cause muscles to relax and actually increase the possibility of snoring.
Other causes of snoring, at any age, include allergies, being overweight, and drinking alcohol before bedtime (it relaxes muscles in the airway). And sometimes, a woman does not snore at all, but experiences the health impacts of sharing a bed with a partner who does snore. In an average relationship, a snorer wakes their partner an average of 21 times per night which adds up to around two years of sleep lost.
When you snore, you constantly disrupt your sleep cycle and decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches your bloodstream. Because oxygen is the fuel that powers our body, it’s no surprise that the consequences are vast.
Weight gain, fatigue, and greater risk for heart attack or stroke are among the many impacts of poor-quality sleep. Not to mention the exhausted haze of grinding through the day with crushing fatigue and a sour mood – and the relationship and family stress that may result.
RELATED CONTENT: Women Snore. And They Shouldn’t Be Embarrassed.
The benefits of treating snoring far outweigh the shame of keeping it a secret. How do we count the ways? Here are just a few examples of how getting a good night’s rest improves your overall health and wellbeing: