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? 

5 Responses to “Why Do Men Snore More Than Women?”

  1. Dentist Roseville on February 25th, 2010 10:18 pm

    This was a pertinent post. an interesting and well-written article! I came across your post while trying to find a source for health-related topics. This is valuable information presented in a clear, concise manner. Reasons why men snore are mainly related to differences in lifestyle although there may be clear physical reasons why snoring occurs. Snoring is noisy breathing that occurs as a result of partial obstruction of the air passages. It is usually due to the soft tissues of the palate, uvula, tongue and tonsils relaxing during sleep. -Yolanda

  2. Snoring - Need your advises - Health and Wellness -Doctors, illness, diseases, nutrition, sleep, stress, diet, hospitals, medicine, cancer, heart disease - City-Data Forum on July 14th, 2010 6:17 am

    […] sleep apnea have twice the risk of dying as those who do not have it. Here for men vs women: Why Do Men Snore More Than Women? | Doctor Steven Y. Park, MD | New York, NY | Integrative Solutions… Everyone snores a little now and then; if you sound like a chorus of chainsaws, get it checked […]

  3. Gloria on April 20th, 2011 9:21 pm

    This artical is discusses the human’s ability of speech; as it relates to snoring. I have to question this considering I have two dogs that Both snore; neither capable of speech? Any insite would be appreciative. I am a wife and mother of two boys. So between my husband, kids, and dogs snoring; I feel at a loss, and wish to better understand .

  4. Steven Park on April 21st, 2011 3:14 am

    Gloria,

    There are always exceptions to the rule, and flat-faced dogs are one such example. These dogs are bred for their facial features. Humans are flat-faced mammals as well, and as a species, are much more susceptible to breathing problems than dogs in general.

  5. john on May 21st, 2011 4:10 pm

    I know some men that snore, but man! every woman I know snores!!! I have to sleep in a separate bedroom to get sleep. I work at night, 2am until 11am and i work with all women…they all snore! and snore loud! I believe it’s “tit” for “tat” but in my little area of this world, women snore more.

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