Snoring is a common condition that refers to the loud, vibrating sound during sleep when airflow through the mouth and nose is partially blocked. Occasional snoring can be normal for both men and women. However, female snoring can be caused by specific factors that differ from those affecting men.
In this blog post, we will answer the question, “What does it mean when a woman snores?” and provide practical tips on how to stop it. So, if you or a bed partner struggles with loud snoring, keep reading to find some helpful insights.
Causes of Snoring in Women
Here are some of the leading causes of snoring in females:
1. Weight Gain or Obesity
Studies show that there is an association between weight gain and snoring in women. Excess weight around the neck and throat area can narrow the airways, leading to snoring. Those who are overweight also tend to have more fatty tissues around their neck, which can contribute to snoring. These fatty tissues can relax the throat muscles and further narrow the airways.
2. Hormonal Changes
Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and menopause can contribute to snoring in females. These hormonal changes can affect the muscles and tissues in the throat, making them more prone to vibrating and causing snoring. When it’s severe, your doctor can run tests to see if you have sleep apnea or another sleep-disordered breathing.
Signs of hormonal changes in women can include:
- Hot flashes
- Rapid heartbeat
- Disrupted sleep
- Mood disorder
3. Sleeping Position
Sleeping on your back can cause the tongue and soft tissues of the throat to collapse, obstructing the upper airway and resulting in snoring. Encouraging side-sleeping may help reduce snoring episodes.
4. Allergies and Chronic Nasal Congestion
Women who suffer from allergies or nasal congestion are more likely to snore. Blocked nasal passages make it difficult for air to flow freely, leading to snoring.
5. Deviated Septum (Crooked Nasal Septum)
This refers to a condition where the nasal septum, the thin wall of bone and cartilage that separates the nostrils, is significantly off-center or crooked. A deviated septum can restrict or block the airflow through one or both nasal passages. The turbulent airflow then encounters resistance, leading to vibration of the tissues in the throat during breathing, resulting in snoring.
6. Alcohol and Sedative Use
Alcohol and sedatives can relax throat muscles, including the tongue and soft tissues. This relaxation can cause the airway to narrow, leading to increased resistance to airflow and vibration of the tissues during breathing, resulting in snoring.
Alcohol can also induce or worsen obstructive sleep apnea. In individuals already prone to snoring, alcohol and sedative use can exacerbate the collapse of the airway, leading to more severe snoring episodes. In addition, alcohol consumption can lead to fluid retention and swelling in the body, including the tissues in the throat. The swollen tissues can further contribute to airway obstruction and snoring.
7. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (Apnea)
Snoring can be a sign of obstructive Sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. If snoring is accompanied by choking or gasping sounds, excessive daytime sleepiness, or morning headaches, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.
Symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud and chronic snoring
- Breathing pauses during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Morning headaches
- Dry mouth and sore throat
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Restless sleep and frequent awakenings
- Chest pain
During pregnancy, hormonal changes play a significant role in causing snoring in women. The surge in estrogen and progesterone levels can lead to relaxation and swelling of the tissues in the nose and throat. This, then, can obstruct the airway, making breathing more difficult during sleep and resulting in snoring. Additionally, increased blood volume (causing blood vessels to expand) during pregnancy can cause nasal congestion and swelling, further contributing to snoring.
Other causes of snoring in pregnant women include:
- Weight gain, particularly around the neck and throat area
- Changes in sleep position, such as sleeping on the back, can cause the tongue to fall back and partially block the airway, increasing the likelihood of snoring
As we age, our muscle tone tends to decrease throughout the body, including the muscles in the upper airway. This loss of muscle tone can lead to the airway becoming more collapsible during sleep, increasing the likelihood of snoring. Female snoring can become severe at ages 60-65.
10. Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation can contribute to snoring in females. When someone is sleep-deprived, their muscles, including those in the throat and airway, can become more relaxed, increasing the likelihood of snoring. Sleep deprivation can also lead to nasal congestion and inflammation, further obstructing the airflow and causing snoring. Additionally, sleep deprivation can worsen existing sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, which can contribute to snoring. It’s important to prioritize quality sleep to minimize the risk of snoring and its associated health effects.
11. Other Underlying Medical Conditions
Several medical conditions can cause snoring in females. Here are some common ones:
- Hypothyroidism. An underactive thyroid gland can lead to weight gain and fluid retention, both of which can contribute to snoring.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal disorder that can cause weight gain, insulin resistance, and hormonal imbalances, potentially leading to snoring.
- Asthma. Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that can cause inflammation and narrowing of the airways, leading to snoring during sleep.
- Cardiovascular disease. Studies suggest cardiovascular disease (CVD) can contribute to snoring in women.
How to Stop Snoring in Women?
While it is not always possible to completely stop snoring in women, there are various methods and remedies that can help reduce or alleviate snoring. The effectiveness of these methods can vary depending on the underlying cause of snoring and individual factors.
Here are some common approaches:
- Weight loss and maintain a healthy weight. Losing excess weight can reduce snoring by reducing the amount of tissue in the throat that can cause obstruction. Incorporating regular exercise and a balanced diet can contribute to weight management.
- Sleep on your side. Encourage side-sleeping by using pillows or positioning aids that support and keep you from rolling onto your back during sleep. This can help keep the airways open and reduce snoring.
- Keep bedroom air moist. Dry air can irritate the nasal passages and throat, leading to snoring. A humidifier in the bedroom can add moisture to the air, reducing the likelihood of snoring.
- Address allergies and nasal congestion. If allergies or nasal congestion contribute to snoring, seek appropriate treatment options. Over-the-counter nasal sprays or antihistamines may provide temporary relief, but consulting a healthcare professional can help identify long-term solutions.
- Use nasal strips or dilators. Nasal dilators or strips can help improve airflow by opening nasal passages and reducing congestion, alleviating snoring.
- Use clear nasal passages. Using saline sprays or nasal rinses can help clear nasal congestion, reducing snoring caused by blocked nasal passages.
- Elevate the head of the bed. Raising the head of the bed by using an adjustable bed or propping it up with pillows can help keep the airway open and reduce snoring.
- Anti-snore devices. Using anti-snore pillows, mouth guards, or nasal devices can help promote better breathing and reduce snoring.
- Use a tennis ball. One suggested method to help reduce snoring involves using a tennis ball. The idea is to sew or attach a tennis ball to the back of your sleepwear or pajamas. This can act as a deterrent, making it uncomfortable to sleep on your back, which is often associated with an increased likelihood of snoring. When you try to roll onto your back during sleep, the presence of the tennis ball can prompt you to shift onto your side, which may help keep the airway open and reduce snoring.
- Address underlying health issues. If snoring persists or is severe, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional. They can assess for underlying medical conditions, such as sleep apnea, and recommend appropriate treatment options. This includes a sleep study or polysomnography, CPAP therapy, or surgery.
Consult with Us Today to Address Female Snoring
Snoring in females can be caused by various factors, including weight gain, hormonal changes, sleep position, and allergies. Understanding these causes and taking proactive steps to address them can help alleviate snoring and improve sleep quality. If you or someone you know is struggling with snoring, try implementing the tips mentioned in this article. However, it’s best to discuss the issue with your healthcare professional.
Book a consultation today with one of our experienced professionals. We will help you understand the potential causes of your snoring and develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs. Remember, a good night’s sleep is essential for overall health and well-being.