Understanding the Causes of Snoring in Women: Beyond the Stereotypes

Last updated: August 18th, 2023

Snoring: General Causes in Females

Snoring occurs when airflow through the mouth and nose is partially blocked during sleep.

While the factors leading to snoring can affect both men and women, some specific causes or contributing factors may be more prevalent in females. Here are some causes of snoring in females:

  1. Anatomy of the Mouth and Throat: A thickened soft palate, an elongated uvula, or increased tissue in the back of the throat can narrow the airway and increase the potential for airflow obstruction. The size and position of the tongue can also be a factor.

  2. Nasal Problems: Chronic nasal congestion or a deviated septum (where the wall between the nostrils is off-center) can obstruct the airflow, leading to snoring.

  3. Being Overweight: Excess weight, especially around the neck, can put pressure on the airway, causing it to collapse partially and lead to snoring. Fat distribution in females might be different from males, leading to unique patterns of snoring.

  4. Loss of Muscle Tone: As people age, the muscle tone in the throat decreases. This can cause the throat to close more easily, leading to snoring. Women might experience these changes differently, especially after menopause.

  5. Hormonal Changes: Pregnancy and menopause can increase the likelihood of snoring in women. Hormonal changes can lead to muscle relaxation in the airways, weight gain, or fluid retention, all of which can contribute to snoring.

  6. Alcohol and Sedatives: Consuming alcohol or sedatives relaxes the muscles of the throat, which can increase the risk of snoring.

  7. Sleep Position: Sleeping on your back can cause the tongue and soft palate to collapse to the back wall of the throat, partially blocking the airway.

  8. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This is a serious medical condition where the airway is blocked, often for several seconds to minutes, during sleep. Snoring is a common symptom of OSA. Although it's more common in men, women, especially post-menopausal women, are also at risk.

  9. Other Health Conditions: Hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and other health conditions can increase the risk of snoring in women.

  10. Lifestyle Factors: Smoking can irritate the membranes in the nose and throat, leading to blocked airways and snoring.

If snoring is affecting sleep quality, causing daytime fatigue, or if there are concerns about sleep apnea, it's essential to consult a doctor. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatments.

Snoring: Men vs. Women

Snoring is a common condition in both men and women, but there are some differences in the prevalence, causes, patterns, and risk factors between the genders. Here's an overview of the differences related to snoring in men and women:

  1. Prevalence:

    • Men: Statistically, men are more likely to snore than women. A significant proportion of adult men are estimated to snore to some extent.
    • Women: While women do snore, the reported rates are generally lower than in men. However, the difference in prevalence decreases with age, especially after menopause.
  2. Causes and Risk Factors:

    • Men: Anatomical differences, such as a larger neck circumference or increased fat distribution around the upper airway, make men more prone to snoring. Men also tend to have a narrower air passage compared to women.
    • Women: Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and especially after menopause can increase the risk of snoring. Conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also be a contributing factor for some women.
  3. Patterns:

    • Men: Men are more likely to have louder and more consistent snoring patterns. Their snoring often becomes more severe with age.
    • Women: Women might have softer or less consistent snoring patterns. They may also be less aware or less likely to report their snoring.
  4. Association with Sleep Apnea:

    • Men: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is more commonly diagnosed in men. The symptoms and the severity of OSA might also be more pronounced.
    • Women: Women with OSA often present with less typical symptoms. Instead of loud snoring or choking, they might report fatigue, insomnia, or morning headaches, which can make OSA harder to diagnose in women.
  5. Hormonal Influences:

    • Men: Testosterone levels don't seem to have a direct correlation with snoring or OSA.
    • Women: Estrogen and progesterone are believed to be protective against snoring and OSA. These hormones help maintain muscle tone in the throat and promote regular breathing patterns. However, during periods of hormonal fluctuation or decline, such as menopause, this protection decreases, leading to an increased risk of snoring.
  6. Recognition and Treatment:

    • Men: Men are more often diagnosed with snoring-related disorders, partly because their symptoms are more recognized and stereotypical.
    • Women: Women might underreport their snoring or not recognize the severity of the problem. Additionally, healthcare providers might not immediately suspect sleep-related disorders in women due to differences in symptom presentation.
  7. Lifestyle and Behavioral Factors:

    • Men: Alcohol consumption, which can increase the risk of snoring, is more frequently reported by men. This could contribute to the higher incidence of snoring in men.
    • Women: Weight gain, especially during and after pregnancy, can contribute to snoring. Also, conditions like hypothyroidism, which is more common in women, can be a factor.

Why Do Women Snore Less Than Men?

Several factors contribute to the difference in snoring prevalence between men and women. Here are some reasons why women tend to snore less than men:

  1. Anatomical Differences: Men generally have a narrower air passage than women, which makes it more susceptible to obstructions and vibrations – the primary causes of snoring sounds.

  2. Hormonal Factors: Female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone have been shown to have a protective effect against the collapse of the upper airway during sleep. They help in maintaining muscle tone in the throat and promote regular breathing patterns.

  3. Fat Distribution: Men tend to accumulate fat around the neck more than women, which can exert pressure on the airway, increasing the likelihood of obstructions.

  4. Lifestyle and Behavior: While this is changing, historically, men have been more likely to consume alcohol and tobacco – both of which are known to increase the risk of snoring. Alcohol relaxes the throat muscles, and smoking can irritate and inflame the airway, leading to snoring.

  5. Sleep Apnea: While both genders can suffer from sleep apnea, it's more commonly diagnosed in men. This condition, characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep, often manifests as loud and chronic snoring. The reasons for the gender difference in sleep apnea prevalence are multifaceted, encompassing hormonal, anatomical, and fat distribution factors.

  6. Underreporting: There's a possibility that women snore as frequently as men but are less likely to be reported or self-report the condition due to social stigmas or less awareness.

  7. Aging and Menopause: Before menopause, women snore less than men. However, the gap narrows post-menopause, suggesting that female hormones play a protective role against snoring. When levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease after menopause, women's risk of developing snoring and sleep apnea increases.

It's essential to remember that while men may snore more frequently or more loudly on average, many women snore as well. If snoring is affecting sleep quality or is accompanied by other symptoms like daytime fatigue, it's a good idea to consult a healthcare professional.

Are There Different Types Of Snoring Mouthpieces For Men And Women?

Snoring mouthpieces, also known as mandibular advancement devices (MADs) or tongue stabilizing devices (TSDs), are designed to open the airway by advancing the lower jaw or stabilizing the tongue to reduce snoring. While the fundamental principle behind these devices is the same regardless of gender, there are some considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Size and Fit: Generally speaking, men tend to have larger jaws and oral cavities than women, which could mean they require a differently sized mouthpiece. Some manufacturers produce mouthpieces in different sizes to cater to this variation.

  2. Custom Fit vs. Universal Fit: Some mouthpieces are "boil-and-bite," allowing the user to customize the fit by softening the material in hot water and then molding it around their teeth. This approach can suit both men and women as it tailors the device to the individual's mouth. On the other hand, universal-fit devices are designed to fit most people but may not be as comfortable or effective as a custom-fit device.

  3. Specific Designs for Women?: There aren't many snoring mouthpieces explicitly marketed for women. The primary differentiation comes in size and adjustability rather than gender-specific designs. However, because of the anatomical differences mentioned, some women might find smaller or more adjustable devices more comfortable.

  4. Comfort and Tolerance: Regardless of gender, some people may find mouthpieces uncomfortable or intrusive, especially when they start using them. It's crucial to ensure a proper fit and to allow an adjustment period. If discomfort persists, it may be worth consulting a dentist or sleep specialist to get a professionally fitted device or to explore other treatment options.

  5. Effectiveness: The effectiveness of a snoring mouthpiece can vary between individuals, and this isn't necessarily gender-specific. However, since some causes of snoring may differ between men and women, the effectiveness of a mouthpiece might vary based on the underlying reason for snoring.

  6. Maintenance and Durability: The durability of the mouthpiece might vary depending on factors like material quality, design, and individual usage habits, but this isn't typically gender-specific.

When selecting a snoring mouthpiece, the focus should be on individual comfort, fit, and effectiveness rather than strictly on gender. It's a good idea to consult with a dentist or sleep specialist when considering any oral device to address snoring.


In conclusion, while both men and women can experience snoring, the underlying causes, risk factors, and patterns can differ between the genders.

It's essential for healthcare providers to recognize these differences to offer appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

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