Why Do Men Snore More Than Women?
February 17, 2010
For all of us, snoring is a fact of life. Either you snore, your bedpartner snores, or you've been rudely awakened by a loud snore at some time or another. Most of the time, the snorer is a man, but sometimes, it can be the woman. So why is it that men snore more than women?
Ultimately, it has to do with your upper airway anatomy. One of the main reasons why humans are susceptible to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea is because of the fact that we can talk. For complex speech and language, the voice box has to drop down from behind the tongue to below the tongue. This opens up a space behind the tongue called the oropharynx, which only humans have. As a result of this "laryngeal descent," the tongue can fall back relatively easily, especially when on our backs, and during deep sleep when our muscles relax. Men's voice boxes also drop lower in the neck, thus the lower pitched voices.
I remember hearing during a plastic surgery lecture during residency the fact that aesthetically, the ideal woman's lower jaw has to be slightly recessed, whereas with men, the jaw should be more prominent, and more defined. What this means is that the smaller the jaw, the less room there is for the normal sized tongue, and the more susceptible for the tongue to fall back and obstruct your breathing while in deep sleep.
If you start off with a larger space behind the tongue (in men), then some degree of muscle relaxation during deep sleep will cause a partial obstruction behind the tongue. With the same inspiratory forces created by the lungs, air is forced by the soft palate at a much faster rate, and with additional muscle relaxation, the free edge of the soft palate begins to flutter.
With women, since the space behind the tongue is smaller to begin with, the same degree of tongue muscle relaxation causes you to stop breathing, leading to an arousal from deep sleep. This is why in general, the man snores, and the woman, being a "light" sleeper, is bothered by the man's snoring.
This may be an overgeneralization, but I see it happening over and over. Does your spouse or bedpartner snore? If so, does it keep you from getting a good night's rest?