A new study of adults who were referred for evaluation of a suspected sleep disorder suggests that women tend to under-report snoring and underestimate its loudness.
Results show that objectively measured snoring was found in 88% of the women (591 of 675), but only 72% reported that they snore (496 of 675). In contrast, objective snoring (92.6%) and self-reported snoring (93.1%) were nearly identical in men. The study also found that women snored as loudly as men, with a mean maximal snoring intensity of 50 decibels among women and 51.7 decibels among men. About 49% of the women had severe or very severe snoring (329 of 675), but only 40% of the women rated their snoring at this level of severity (269 of 675).
“We found that although no difference in snoring intensity was found between genders, women tend to under-report the fact that they snore and to underestimate the loudness of their snoring,” said Nimrod Maimon, MD, MHA, principal investigator and professor at the Ben-Gurion University. “Women reported snoring less often and described it as milder.”
Snoring is a respiratory sound generated in the upper airway during sleep. The intensity of snoring may vary and often will disturb the bed partner’s sleep. Snoring is a common warning sign for obstructive sleep apnea, a chronic disease that involves the repeated collapse of the upper airway during sleep.
According to the authors, there is a social stigma associated with snoring among women. Therefore, women may not reliably answer questions about snoring, which may contribute to the under-diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea in women.
“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,” Maimon said.
Maimon added that health care providers who are screening women for suspected obstructive sleep apnea should consider other factors in addition to self-reported snoring. For example, women with sleep apnea may be more likely than men to report other symptoms such as daytime fatigue or tiredness.