Snoring is not just a man’s problem. Women snore too – just as loudly – and with the same associated health risks. So why is it so often downplayed and overlooked?

Just as real men can cry, real women can snore. And we need to get over it. Why? Because snoring is one of the main symptoms physicians look for when screening for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Left untreated, OSA profoundly impacts sleep quality and can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and other health issues.

Snoring – a red flag for all of us

According to the British Snoring & Sleep Apnea Association, studies have found that men are twice as likely to be referred for a sleep study than women. This is largely due to the fact that physicians often rely on self-reported snoring and men are more likely to seek help about snoring. Almost half of women, on the other hand, do not report their snoring symptoms – often due to embarrassment or shame.

No surprise that another study found that sleep apnea was undiagnosed in more than 90% of women with moderate to severe sleep apnea. Apparently, women are more likely to report symptoms like daytime fatigue, headaches and depression – and be treated for these symptoms, rather than the underlying cause of their sleep apnea.

Women downplay snoring

What’s more, a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine revealed that women who do report their snoring often underestimate their level of snoring. The findings showed that “although no objective difference in snoring intensity was found between women and men, there was a significant discrepancy in self-reported volume of snoring.” Simply put, compared to men, women in this study reported snoring less often and described it as milder than was actually the case. This could be one of the barriers that prevent women from reaching sleep clinics and getting the right diagnosis and care.

By the way, the average maximum loudness of snoring by people in the study was basically the same for men and women.

Menopause, sleep and OSA

According to the Mayo Clinic, one in 10 middle-aged women have OSA and it’s more likely to occur after menopause. Research also shows that women with OSA may be at increased risk of developing heart-related issues compared to men. The reason might be a combination of the post-menopausal loss of the protective hormonal effect and weight gain. You can learn more about the connection between menopause, sleep and OSA – and what you can do about it here.

So ladies – be honest with yourself. Ask your partner if you snore. If you are unsure of whether or not you snore and need a purely objective analysis, try the snore detection feature in the Sleep Cycle app (for Android or iOS). It can help you to address the problem by compiling an accurate account of your snoring. And be sure to talk to your health care provider if you suspect your sleep is being disrupted by snoring or if think you might have sleep apnea. Snoring can be treated! A good night’s sleep is always well worth the effort.