Welcome to my article about causes of snoring in women.
Have you ever noticed that the subject of women snoring is typically taboo?
I mean, it’s not exactly viewed as “lady-like” is it?
However, snoring among women is actually far more prevalent than you may think.
Additionally, I don’t think it is a subject that should be ignored or swept under the carpet, irrespective of how “embarrassing” it may feel.
Snoring could be an early warning sign of a far more serious condition, such as sleep apnea.
I think it’s important to be open and honest about snoring, as well as being aware of the various causes and potential cures.
So, in today’s article I’d like to introduce you to some of the most common causes of snoring in women.
Snoring has always been viewed as a male-dominated trait, and with good reason, as overall more men snore than women.
In fact, studies show that approximately 40% of men snore compared to 24% of women.
With that said, this still means that almost 1 in 4 women snore.
When looking at what causes snoring in women, age is a big factor.
The number of women under the age of 30 who snore is so insignificant that it’s hard to put a figure to it. Some studies reveal that it could be less than 5% of women under 30 who snore, although the small number of participants in the majority of these studies make it difficult to gauge an exact figure.
However, the number of women aged between 30-50 who snore sharply rises and is estimated to be somewhere between 15%-20%.
It’s not until the menopause and onwards that we see a significant rise in the number of women who snore, and this figure is more-or-less equal to their male counterparts at around 40%.
The age factor is not so much of an issue in men, as far more younger men snore than women of a comparable age.
So, all-in-all, age is one of the most common causes of snoring in women.
2. Being Overweight
I guess you were probably hoping I wasn’t going to go there, but unfortunately being overweight is probably one of main causes of snoring for women and men alike.
In fact, you could say there is a major link between body weight and snoring and sleep apnea.
The main reason for snoring (irrespective) of sex is typically because the airways of the nose, mouth, throat or neck are constricted. This will lead tissues around the “constricted” area to vibrate, which is what causes the noise of snoring.
In the case of sleep apnea, certain airways can become blocked while a person is asleep, which is why people who suffer from this condition will often be heard gasping for breath or seem as though they are choking.
The more weight you are carrying will typically lead to excess fat around the neck and throat area, and this will usually make the airways even narrower, thus a higher likelihood of snoring.
Oh yes, you can definitely blame your hormones if you are a female snorer.
A woman’s estrogen levels will actually play a pivotal role in whether she snores or not.
Estrogen is female sex hormone which forms in the ovaries. Its major role is to ensure that the ovum matures correctly and it also supports bone formation.
Estrogen will also influence your levels of serotonin.
Serotonin is one of the endorphins, or “happiness hormones”, although it is actually a neurotransmitter of the brain.
You have probably heard that serotonin levels are boosted during activities such as exercise or sex, and they are responsible for giving you that “high” feeling. However, serotonin is also responsible for maintaining muscle tension.
If for any reason there is less estrogen available this will also have an impact on serotonin levels.
This in turn can lead to a decrease in muscle tone, which means that the airways become looser and more relaxed and more susceptible to collapse.
And yes, you’ve guessed it, this will increase the likelihood of snoring.
4. Alcohol Consumption
There are many reasons that drinking alcohol can cause snoring (and many other sleep disorders as well – see my relatedpost below).
Firstly, alcohol is a relaxant, and therefore as you drop off to sleep the tissues surrounding the nose, mouth, throat and neck area will become even more relaxed than usual. This of course can lead to a further blockage of the airways which results in snoring.
Drinking alcohol is also linked to weight gain.
Here’s an interesting fact – Protein and carbohydrates provide on average 4 calories per gram consumed. Fat is around 9 calories per gram and alcohol is approximately 7 calories per gram.
In essence, by consuming alcohol you are closer on the nutritional scale to consuming a block of lard than you are to eating a chicken breast or a jacket potato.
Okay, I know, an extremely crude example, but I have met too many people who don’t believe that alcohol is the cause of their weight gain.
Finally, alcohol can actually suppress your breathing at night, which is actually a trigger for sleep apnea.
All-in-all, if you’re worried about snoring, you should limit your alcohol consumption, and this is especially true the closer you get to bedtime.
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Clinical research has shown that there is a link between both insulin resistance and glucose intolerance and snoring, especially obstructive sleep apnea.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a short-term complication of diabetes, which is typically caused by extremely high blood glucose levels and high ketone levels in the bloodstream.
One of the main symptoms of DKA is rapid or labored breathing, which in turn can cause snoring when you’re asleep.
Additionally, diabetes has always been associated with snoring and sleep apnea, and this especially true in overweight males.
However, one study of female snorers aged between 25-79, found that the vast majority had diabetes.
So, it appears this is a two-way street or a vicious cycle. If you have diabetes then there is a high probability that you will snore and vice-versa.
The study also concluded that if a woman was a snorer, irrespective of weight issues, age, or smoking status, they were twice as likely to have diabetes than a non-snorer.
It is also interesting to note that not only are snoring and sleep apnea influenced by sexual hormones (as I’ve mentioned above), but so is diabetes.
So, cases of snoring and diabetes typically increase during pregnancy and after menopause.
Finally, I have covered the fact that being overweight can be a cause of snoring in women, and although not always the case, many people with diabetes may be carrying a few extra pounds.
It is estimated that 25% of women snore during pregnancy.
I have touched on a couple of reasons for this earlier:
Firstly, there is the obvious weight gain which comes as part and parcel of being pregnant.
Secondly, your hormone levels will be affected during pregnancy, but interestingly estrogen levels will increase steadily throughout pregnancy and reach their peak typically during the third trimester.
However, during the first trimester your estrogen levels increase at a fairly rapid pace, which is what will generally cause the nausea that we commonly associate with pregnancy.
The feeling of nausea can often interfere with sleeping habits and the quality of sleep, most commonly in the form of sleep deprivation or insomnia, but in some cases this may be a cause for snoring in females.
Then we have the case of the blood vessels in the nasal cavity expanding, which is a frequent occurrence during pregnancy, and can lead to snoring.
And finally, as if all the above (as well as everything else a woman has to endure when she is with child) wasn’t enough, the coughs and colds that are typically prevalent with pregnancy may also cause snoring.
Once again, after covering various causes for snoring in women above, it may be a little more obvious why the menopause could be an underlying factor.
Age will typically contribute to menopause, and as I’ve mentioned snoring in women aged 50 or over is more-or-less equal to their male counterparts at approximately 40%.
During menopause, the ovaries will no longer be active, and will cease producing estrogen (or very little), and we are now aware of the effect this will have on serotonin levels, which in turn can impact on muscle tone.
And we know, the looser the muscles and tissues surrounding the neck and throat area, the higher the likelihood that snoring will occur.
8. Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill (COCP)
Often a likely cause of snoring in younger women will be when they start taking birth control pills.
This is typically because of the hormonal imbalance in the body that is created by the hormones that are present in the pill.
However, snoring is only a short-term side effect, and usually within a few days your hormone balance should return to normal, thus concluding any episodes of snoring.
If this isn’t the case then you may wish to consider an alternative medication.
Whether you are male or female, smoking will increase your chances of snoring.
Smoking can cause a number of issues including, irritating the tissues that line the airways, such as the membranes in the nose and throat.
This can lead to swelling and a blockage of the airway, which is what causes post-nasal drip and snoring.
Many smokers also develop certain respiratory issues over time and this may lead to snoring.
So, there you have it – the 9 major causes of snoring in women.
As you can see many of these causes can be attributed to both men and women alike.
With that said, there are also certain hormonal issues that are purely symptomatic among women.
Many of these causes of snoring can be dealt with through lifestyle changes, such as limiting your alcohol intake, exercising more regularly, eating a well-balanced diet, and (I know easier said than done) giving up smoking.
However, there are certain issues that may require medical intervention and therefore it is recommended that you speak to your Doctor about these.
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