Women snore too - and just as loudly

(Reuters Health) - It’s long been assumed that snoring is a man’s problem. But a new study finds that women snore too and often don’t own up to it. And even when they do admit to snoring, they insist, incorrectly, that theirs isn’t as loud as men’s.

Researchers studying nearly 2000 patients who came into a lab for sleep studies found that nearly 40 percent of women who declared themselves to be non-snorers turned out to have severe or very severe snoring intensity, according to the study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, which increases a person’s risk for serious conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke.

While the researchers couldn’t be reached for comment, a press statement was provided.

“We found that although no difference in snoring intensity was found between genders, women tend to underreport the fact that they snore and to underestimate the loudness of their snoring, study coauthor Dr. Nimrod Maimon, a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and head of internal medicine at Soroka University Medical Center, said in the statement. “The fact that women reported snoring less often and described it as milder may be one of the barriers preventing women from reaching sleep clinics for a sleep study.”

Among the 1,913 patients in the study were 675 women and 1,238 men. The average age was 49. As part of the evaluation, patients were asked to fill out a questionnaire that asked them to rate the severity of their snoring. Then, while the patients were sleeping, the volume of their snoring was measured with a digital sound meter. The snoring intensity was classified as mild, at 40 to 45 decibels, moderate, at 45 to 55 decibels, severe, at 55-60 decibels, or very severe, at 60 or more decibels.

When sleep volumes were analyzed, it turned out that women snored as loudly as men. Moreover, although 28 percent of women said they didn’t snore at all, that was true for just nine percent of them. Among men, the numbers weren’t as striking: 6.8 percent said they didn’t snore when in reality just 3.5 percent did not.

The results suggest that doctors look for other signs of sleep apnea in women rather than a self-report of snoring, Maimon and his colleagues noted.

Dr. Ryan Soose, a sleep expert who was not affiliated with the new research, agreed.

Women are more likely to show up in the doctor’s office with complaints of “daytime symptoms such as fatigue, tiredness, or depression,” said Soose, who is director of the division of sleep surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Men are more likely to have nighttime concerns, such as waking up at night gasping or choking, and too many trips to the bathroom. A lot of women end up misdiagnosed with other conditions or being brushed off and not referred to appropriate testing and treatment.”

Part of the problem lies with doctors’ stereotypes of the typical snorer, Soose said. “Many think that snoring is just a problem for overweight, middle-aged men,” he explained. “As a field we need to get away from the traditional mindset and recognize there are different presentations of these conditions and we need to take a more personalized approach for both men and women.”

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, online March 15, 2019.