We think we know the story: men are snorers who disturb their wives with loud breathing throughout the night. Wives may employ elbows or pillows to try to wake him up, and may either force him into the other room or go themselves.

However, more and more research is pointing out that women may be almost as likely as men to snore. And they may snore just as loudly, too. The big difference? Women don’t admit it. That’s the finding of a new study showing that men and women referred to a sleep clinic have about the same incidence of snoring–and they snore just as loudly–but women don’t admit to being snorers.

A woman lays next to her husband in bed while snoring very loudly. While she's part of 28% of women who say they don't snore, she's as likely to snore and suffer from sleep apnea as her husband.

Referred for a Sleep Evaluation

For this study, researchers compared the results of polysomnography with a survey for 1913 people who had been referred to a sleep center. All the people knew they’d been referred to a sleep center by a doctor when they were asked about their snoring.

Even so, more than a quarter of women (28%) reported that they were nonsnorers, four times the rate of men (7%). Despite the difference in the surveys, actual polysomnography data showed that most men and women were actually snorers (88% of women vs. 93% of men).

The incidence of snoring wasn’t the only thing that was the same. The average volume of snoring was also nearly identical: 50 decibels for women, 52 for men (a typical alarm clock is 60 decibels). Some of the discrepancy was among the loudest snorers: 37% of women who said they didn’t snore at all were described as “severe” snorers, with a snoring volume of 55 decibels or more! For comparison,  only 12% of men said they were nonsnorers when they were actually severe snorers.

It’s important to put this study in some context. It looked at consecutive patients, which means that it considered each patient who came into the clinic during the study period, not selecting patients in any way other than their order. The study did include almost twice as many men as women (1238 vs. 675), so the study isn’t saying that women snore just as often as men–just that the ones referred to this clinic did. While this remains a significant difference, it means that about a third of all snorers are women, and that they snore just as loudly as men.

Why Women Don’t Report Snoring

If a third of snorers are women, and they snore just as loudly as men, why are they more likely to report that they don’t snore?

Part of it is our perception that snoring is a man’s problem. Women might not recognize that they’re snorers. Women also don’t want to be linked to what’s seen as a masculine problem. They might not recognize the link between snoring and their sleep problems.

Another part of the problem is that men are often heavier sleepers than women. They might be more likely to sleep through the snoring of their partner. If your partner doesn’t report your snoring, you might never know you have a problem. And then you would potentially experience the risks of untreated sleep apnea.

Women Need to Get Evaluated for Snoring and Sleep Apnea

This study shows in no uncertain terms that women are often snorers, even though they might not know it or report it. This makes it clear that sleep tests are not just for men–women need to be told about these potentially serious health problems so they can be tested and treated.

At the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha, we are dedicated to ensuring that everyone gets diagnosed and treated for their sleep problems. If you want to learn whether you are a snorer or have sleep apnea, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist