Science tells us that there are several reasons why men are more likely to be banished to the sofa
Studies have shown time and time again that men snore more than women. In fact, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, around 40 per cent of adult men are habitual snorers compared to less than a quarter of women. This means that the male chunk of the population are almost twice as likely to be elbowed in the ribs or sent to the spare bedroom due to the noise they are making in the night.
But recent findings from Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine are helping us to finally shine a light on why this might be the case. It seems that, at least partially, the answer lies in biology.
Ellen Wermter, a family nurse at the centre, explained the findings, revealing that “upper airway anatomy may contribute to the increased prevalence of snoring in men.”
Put simply, snoring is caused by vibrations within the airway, and the male anatomy usually offers more space for propagating and producing these vibrations. Men tend to have larger airways, and their larynxes (the hollow muscles forming an air passage to the lungs) are found lower in the neck. This creates a bigger space in the back of the throat.
When we fall asleep, the muscles in the pharynx (the cavity between your nose and mouth) relax and the tongue falls back and fills this space. But the bigger the gap, the more likely you are to snore (and those louder those snores are likely to be).
Along with these differences in size, men’s airways also tend to change more dramatically than women’s in the transition between sitting up and lying down. This further increases the risk that snoring will occur.
What’s more, men also tend to carry a sizeable chunk of their body weight in their chest, neck and thorax (the area between the neck and the abdomen). This can easily result in thicker necks, an increased amount of soft tissue and more fat deposits placing pressure on the airways and making snoring a more common issue.
However, these findings are merely guidelines to the general differences, and not a set rule. Physician and sleep specialist at Harvard Medical School, Noah Siegel, agrees with the findings put forward by the Charlottesville researchers but feels it is important to acknowledge the exceptions to these expectations.
Siegel clarifies that inevitably, some women have larger necks and therefore larger airways than many men. What’s more, although women are at a lower risk of sleep apnoea than men, this risk rises dramatically when they reach the menopause. Siegel says this may be because “the female hormones of oestrogen and progesterone provide some protection relative to snoring and sleep apnoea.”
So it seems that biology is mainly to blame for men’s common snoring, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing that can be done about it
Simple sleep changes have been shown to influence the amount of snoring people display, as well as the volume of the snoring itself. Lying on your back makes the tongue more likely to fall to the back of your throat, so switching to sleeping on your side can significantly reduce the amount you snore.
Similarly, practising healthy lifestyle changes can reduce the amount you snore, as carrying excess weight has been shown to increase the risk of snoring in both men and women. Modifying your diet, carrying out a healthy fitness regime, staying hydrated and cutting back on alcohol and smoking have all been proven to help reduce snoring, helping to give you and your partner a restful night’s sleep.