Women under-report their snoring – both the prevalence and intensity – compared to male snorers, according to a new study by researcher from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Soroka University Medical Center.
The new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine involved 1,913 patients with an average age of 49 that were referred to sleep disorder centres for evaluation.
‘Although we found no gender difference in snoring intensity, women tend to under-report the fact that they snore and underestimate the loudness of their snoring,’ says Professor Nimrod Maimon, principal investigator and lecturer at BGU’s Faculty of Health Sciences and the head of internal medicine at Soroka.
‘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 evaluation.’
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. It is also a red flag for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a chronic disease that involves the repeated collapse of the upper airway during sleep that can cause death.
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, and 80% of the cases of moderate and severe OSA are undiagnosed.
In the research, participants completed a questionnaire rating snoring and severity. During a sleep study that lasted a full night, objective snoring volume was quantified using a calibrated digital sound survey meter. Snoring intensity was classified as mild (40–45 decibels), moderate (45–55 decibels), severe (55–60 decibels), or very severe (60 decibels or more).
Furthermore, results showed that 88% of the women (591 of 675) snored, but only 72% reported that they snore (496 of 675). Among men, however, objective snoring (92.6%) and self-reported snoring (93.1%) were nearly identical.
The study also revealed that women snored as loudly as men, with a mean maximal snoring intensity of 50 decibels among women and 51.7 decibels among men. Women also underestimated the severity of their snoring. Approximately 49% of the women had severe or very severe snoring of 60 decibels or more (329 of 675), but only 40% of the women rated their snoring at this severity level (269 of 675).
The researchers concluded that social stigma most likely plays a role in unreliable answers provided by patients, and that it is of great importance to physicians who want to know how to best screen for OSA.
Physicians need to have greater awareness about the prevalence of this disorder among women, the authors said, and be on guard for additional symptoms reported by patients, including daytime fatigue, depression, chronic pain and headaches.