There are definite gender differences when it comes to those sleep-disrupting sounds. Discover the biology behind this middle-of-the-night disturbance.
Nearly 90 million Americans have a habit of snoring in their sleep—and for many of these noisemakers, there are exasperated partners wondering whether he or she will ever sleep through the night again. When it comes to the sex divide between the snorers and the ear plugging partners, who snores more? While both men and women do it, statistically speaking the louder sleeper is likely to be male.
The issue goes beyond just a little night noise: About half of snorers may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition that’s also related to sex. OSA, which affects more men than women, happens when the upper portions of a sleeper’s airways become closed off, blocking oxygen and restricting respiration. The result: A gasping breathing pattern that echoes the sound of snoring for the sufferer and induces multiple sleep interruptions during the night.
Getting to the bottom of snoring isn’t always easy, but understanding the role sex plays is a good start. Here are three reasons why men snore more than women:
Men are born with air passages that are narrower than women’s—and this can cause more nighttime noise. The smaller the airway, the harder it is for air to flow during the normal breathing process. What’s more, when air is forced through a tiny opening, the tissues that surround it vibrate vigorously and snoring becomes louder as a result.
The use of alcohol and tobacco are significant contributing factors when it comes to snoring: Alcohol relaxes the muscles around the throat and smoke triggers inflammation in the body’s airways. Both of these things can cause snoring to be louder and more frequent. Statistically, men drink alcohol more often than women do; they’re also more likely to drink it in excess. Men smoke more than women as well, leaving them vulnerable to snoring as a side effect.
Carrying around too many pounds not only negatively affects one’s health, but it can also up the odds of snoring. Excessive weight contributes to poor muscle tone and creates excess throat and neck tissue—both of which vibrate when the sleeper breathes deeply, causing an increase in snoring. And while it’s true that men and women are almost equally overweight in this country, men still lead the charge with 74 percent considered overweight or obese, compared to 67 percent of women.
If there’s a snoring battle raging in your bedroom, know that you’re not alone. The good news is that you can make changes to factors such as lifestyle habits and weight gain that may lower your risk of snoring. Consider an appointment with your health care provider to discuss your snoring, its possible causes and the possibility of OSA.