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Men Snore More Than Women. Why?

If you’ve ever shared a bed with someone who snores, you know exactly how frustrating it can be to lie awake, plotting a midnight move to the couch. If you’re the snorer, then you’ve likely experienced the morning wrath of a sleep-deprived partner (and maybe even been exiled to the couch yourself). 

Anybody can snore, regardless of age or gender. In fact, around 90 million Americans snore. However, you’re much more likely to be the louder bedtime partner if you happen to be a man. 

About 40 percent of adult men snore regularly, versus 24 percent of women (they’re more likely to have insomnia, totally unrelated to a partner’s snoring). Men are also more likely than women to have sleep apnea, a disorder that causes breathing to stop and start during sleep. Sleep apnea is often linked to loud snoring, says Dr. Stephanie Stahl, an Indianapolis-based sleep medicine specialist. 

To understand why men snore more than women, it’s important to understand why snoring happens at all. When air flows through a narrow airway, tissues vibrate and make that familiar snoring sound. Lots of factors can increase the odds of a narrow airway during sleep, from obesity to alcohol use, which can relax the airway before bed

When it comes to men, the main risk factor is muscle structure, says Dr. Rafael Pelayo, a sleep medicine specialist at Stanford Health Care. Men typically have thicker necks than women; that extra pressure around the airway causes it to narrow, resulting in a higher likelihood of snoring. The more a man weighs, the higher chance he’ll snore. Pelayo says extra pounds add girth around mens’ necks, while women usually gain the most weight around their hips and thighs.

Here’s the kicker: Men snore more than women as a general rule, but women often start snoring more as they get older, especially around menopause. Pelayo says women begin to gain more weight around their necks during this time. “Older women catch up with snoring frequency, but it’s less severe, because they’ve had it fewer years than the men,” he says. 


What’s the Deal with Eye Goop?

Having a bed partner who snores can really put a damper on your sleep. Pelayo and Stahl say their snoring patients commonly report partners complaining about disrupted sleep, which can start arguments. “One of the most common reasons people get referred for an evaluation is because their spouse repetitively told them they need to be evaluated,” Stahl says. 

Even if you sleep alone, if you know you snore, it’s a good idea to talk to a primary care provider or see a provider at a sleep medicine clinic. While it seems like snoring is just a loud nuisance, it can be a sign of more serious conditions like sleep apnea, which can increase your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart attack. 

After evaluating your snoring through a home or in-office sleep study, your provider can recommend a treatment plan to help you stop snoring. Lifestyle changes can make a big impact; Pelayo says losing weight, even a few pounds, can decrease your risk of snoring. 

Depending on what’s causing your snoring, your medical provider may recommend something else. The most common treatment for sleep apnea–related snoring is a CPAP, a machine that blows air into your nose to keep the tongue and surrounding tissue away from the back of the mouth. Sometimes doctors recommend oral appliances that help position your jaw to keep your airway open. Surgery to open the upper airway is also an option.

Either way, if your partner says something about your snoring, thank them. Snoring is a serious — but manageable — health concern. “Don’t blow it off or put it on your bed partner to wear ear plugs,” says Pelayo. “They may have just saved your life.”

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