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What Causes Snoring in Women?
If you’re like most women you may feel embarrassed about your loud snoring. Snoring is usually thought of as a male problem.
In fact, in younger years twice as many men snore as women. But once you hit menopause the number of women affected by snoring doubles, evening out the male and female divide.
We look at the reasons for snoring and why menopause makes such a big impact.
Snoring and Menopause
The difference in snoring between men and women comes down to biological differences in lung size and respiratory function. The upper airway is bigger in women and the airway walls are less flexible. That means your airway walls are less likely to yield to pressure and collapse during sleep.
This explains why twice as many men snore than women in the years before menopause. But what changes when menopause hits?
What most women don’t know is that your body’s motivation to breathe varies in phase with your menstrual cycle. That means that the hormones oestrogen and progesterone play a huge part in whether or not you snore. Any changes to these hormones can make your usual strong upper airways more flexible and you go from being a sound sleeper to a snoring or sleep apnoea sufferer.
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea And Menopause
In fact, a study published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), examined the link between Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) and menopause
Researchers found that OSA, usually more common in men than women.
It occurs more frequently as women age, gain weight, and reach perimenopause and postmenopause status.
During the research, a test was conducted among perimenopausal and postmenopausal women who experienced disruptions during their sleep. It showed that 53% had a sleep disorder such as OSA.
As reported in the research paper, "Association of vasomotor symptoms and sleep apnea risk in midlife women," 1,691 women from the Mayo Clinic completed questionnaires. Of these women, 53% had a sleep disorder and 24.9% were classified in the intermediate and high-risk categories for OSA.
The women classified in the intermediate and high-risk categories for OSA were likely to be older, have a higher body mass index and a greater incidence of hypertension. Not only that but women who are experiencing severe hot flashes in midlife were at a higher risk for OSA – which is 1.87 times higher than in women with mild or no hot flashes.
And if you don’t snore you may still be suffering from OSA. The OSA diagnosis in women is far more challenging than men. For female symptoms are different from the more obvious ones that men experience, such as loud snoring. Symptoms for women often include insomnia, headaches, fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
What Can You Do About Your Snoring?
Identifying any sleep disorder, especially snoring and sleep apnoea, is so important.
Sleep apnoea is associated with many health problems including increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, depression, mental illness and death.
If you wake up feeling tired or with headaches it’s worth having a sleep study to find out if the cause is related to your sleep health.
Menopause is hard enough without having to deal with lack of sleep or a sleep disorder on top of everything else. Do something for yourself today. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
- Gao, Catherine C. BA; Kapoor, Ekta MBBS; Lipford, Melissa C. MD; Miller, Virginia M. MBA, PhD; Schroeder, Darrell R. MSc; Mara, Kristin C. MS; Faubion, Stephanie S. MD. The Association of vasomotor symptoms and sleep apnea risk in midlife women. Menopause, November 2017.