Eye-Opening Study of Women's Snoring

Middle Age, Extra Pounds May Up Women's Snoring Risk

Medically Reviewed by Ann Edmundson, MD, PhD on April 13, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

April 13, 2006 -- Middle-aged, heavy women may be more likely to snore -- or at least, to admit it.

Among women, those in their 50s and those with higher BMI (body mass index) are most likely to report habitual snoring, researchers report in the journal Chest.

The finding comes from a study of about 6,800 women living in Uppsala, Sweden. The women, who were at least 20 years old, took surveys about snoring, age, weight, height, waist and neck circumference, smoking, hormonal status, and alcohol use.

The researchers -- who work at Sweden's Uppsala University -- studied snoring because habitual snoring is a major symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In people with OSA, breathing stops momentarily during sleep.

Untreated obstructive sleep apnea is potentially life-threatening and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. However, snoring is usually not a serious problem.

Snoring Study

Malin Svensson, MD, and colleagues mailed surveys to more than 10,000 women. Each woman also got a tape measure to measure their neck and waist.

The surveys, which included 109 questions, showed that nearly 8% of the women reported being habitual snorers. That percentage peaked at 14% among women in their 50s.

Less than 3% of women in their 20s reported habitual snoring. Women age 60 and older were less likely to report habitual snoring than women in their 50s, the study shows.

The researchers also calculated the women's BMI, based on self-reported height and weight. They found that women with high BMI were more likely to report being habitual snorers.

"The prevalence of self-reported habitual snoring was strongly dependent on age and BMI," Svensson's team writes.

Alcohol, Inactivity

Experts already know that drinking alcohol and being overweight can boost snoring risk. Svensson's study adds more detail to those factors in women.

For instance, very lean women (BMI less than 20) were more likely to report being habitual snorers if they were dependent upon alcohol. Four questions on the survey gauged alcohol dependence.

Few women in the study had low BMIs, so the researchers suggest using caution in interpreting those findings.

Obese women (BMI of at least 30) were more likely to report habitual snoring if they also reported getting little physical activity in their leisure time. The influence of alcohol dependence faded as women's BMI rose, the study shows.

Fib Factor

Some of the women may not have known -- or admitted -- that they were habitual snorers. The researchers didn't check the women's self-reported snoring habits.

Nearly a third of the women said they didn't share their bedroom. No one may have told them that they snored. But those women's self-reported habitual snoring and BMI were similar to other women in the study who did have shared bedrooms, the researchers write.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Svensson, M. Chest, April 2006; vol 129: pp 933-941. WebMD Medical Reference: "Understanding Snoring -- the Basics." News release, American College of Chest Physicians.
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