Anecdotally, for sure. But statistically...
In many homes, one half of a couple will firmly deny that they snore. Yet, the fact is that about 50 percent of adults actually do, according to a 2015 study of more than eight million participants. However, it’s a myth that men (and not women) are always the ones who snore. Researchers have found that the tendency to snore depends on hormones and fat distribution in the body, but not necessarily sex itself.
Why We Think Men Snore More Than Women
It makes sense that this trait could anecdotally differ in men and women, but that doesn’t make snoring exclusive to one sex over the other. Here are the factors that snoring actually depends on:
When soft tissues in the upper airway collapse, it produces vibrations as air passes through the smaller canal. Men typically have a longer upper airway and a larger roof of the mouth, which is more likely to collapse and lead to snoring.
2. Body fat
Men tend to gain fat in organs in the upper part of their body, normally the torso and belly in particular. This could affect breathing and cause snoring. This is also one reason why female snoring increases during pregnancy and menopause as more weight gain occurs around the middle (similar to male patterns).
Here’s another factor that may impact differences in the sexes, as well as women’s chances of snoring during pregnancy and after menopause. Researchers believe that progesterone and estrogen may help prevent upper airway collapse. However, since progesterone also stimulates breathing, changes in levels could lead to disruption.
Interestingly enough, tobacco is more likely to increase snoring in women, while alcohol is a culprit for men. Many more U.S. adults drink alcohol than smoke cigarettes, so all the drinking could lead to more snoring men.
Here’s When To Keep One Eye Open
The myth that only men snore could lead to underdiagnosing of certain health concerns. In fact, women may often be misdiagnosed with depression or other hormonal imbalances that have led to insomnia, when they may actually have sleep apnea. This may be because outdated societal norms discourage them from admitting to snoring, which can be viewed as unfeminine.
Though snoring is relatively harmless, losing sleep helps no one. Talk to your doctor if your snoring is hurting the quality of sleep for you or your partner. It could be as simple as changing your sleeping position, but sometimes other underlying issues need to be addressed. Even if you’re not sure if you’re snoring, poor sleep is a good enough reason to start a conversation with your doctor.
- Do Men Snore More Than Women? Sleep.org, 2021. (Accessed July 21, 2021)
- Bhattacharyya N. Sleep and health implications of snoring: A populational analysis. Laryngoscope. 2015 Oct;125(10):2413-6. Epub 2015 May 6.
- Lin CM, Davidson TM, Ancoli-Israel S. Gender differences in obstructive sleep apnea and treatment implications. Sleep Med Rev. 2008;12(6):481-496.
- Chuang LP, Lin SW, Lee LA, et al. The gender difference of snore distribution and increased tendency to snore in women with menopausal syndrome: a general population study. Sleep Breath. 2017;21(2):543-547