Why are so many women made to feel embarrassed that they snore?

Written by Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.

Snoring is incredibly common among both men and women – but its masculine associations make it hard for many women to talk about.

Type the word ‘snoring’ into Google Images and you’ll be met by a familiar scene. Alongside the odd anatomical diagram and product advertisement, you’ll find a variety of photos and illustrations of a man snoring in bed with a woman lying awake beside him. 

Sometimes she’s got a pillow over her ears, sometimes she’s shaking the man awake and sometimes she’s simply seething with rage, but the message is the same – snoring is a primarily male issue.

The reality is far more complicated, however. According to statistics, men do snore more than women – recent research from the nasal dilator company Mute found that 59% of men snore, compared to 46% of women. But 46% is not an insignificant number – it equates to almost one in two women, after all. 

In the case of snoring, the condition’s masculine associations can often discourage women from reporting their experiences in full, too. Indeed, in 2019, a study found that women were more likely to report being non-snorers than their male counterparts (28% vs 7%) although the rates of snoring between the women and men who took part in the study were relatively similar (88% vs 93%).

Hannah*, 26, from south London, is one of the many women who has felt the impact of snoring’s masculine depiction. To the best of her belief, she’s snored since her pre-teen years, but she’s never spoken to her GP about it – and still feels embarrassed when people hear her or bring it up.

“I always feel ‘unladylike’ whenever my snoring is experienced by others or spoken about in a social setting,” she tells Stylist. “It feels like men are more able to snore without people having an issue or without their physical health being up for discussion.” 

Hannah’s snoring has an impact on her personally, too. As well as disrupting her sleep (her snoring regularly wakes her up), she’s also had to sleep in a separate room from her partner on numerous occasions, and she says her snoring leaves her feeling physically unwell.

“My snoring makes me feel very unfit and unhealthy, as well as very burnt out,” she says. “It’s a vicious cycle – I notice that the more tired I am the more I will snore and fall into a deeper sleep.”

Statistics show that 46% of women snore.

Like many women who snore, Hannah is yet to try anything to help with her snoring – instead putting it down to her weight and fitness levels. But seeking help for snoring isn’t just about being able to sleep better (although that can have a big impact), it’s also incredibly important for your health.  

“If your snoring is affecting your sleep, it’s most certainly bad for your health,” explains Dr Ellie Cannon, a GP and Mute’s snoring ambassador.

“Getting enough sleep is important for both mental and physical health, so finding ways to ensure we get the best we can is vital. If we don’t get enough sleep this can not only affect our mood or energy levels but our physical health as well. Lack of sleep can also be associated with diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.” 

Long-term, frequent snoring has also been shown to directly impact physical health – especially in women. In fact, a 2018 study found that the hearts of women who snore appear to become damaged more quickly than those of men.

If one thing’s for sure, it’s about time the taboo surrounding women and snoring came to an end. Not only is it completely normal to snore – after all, almost half of all women do it – but many people can significantly reduce or put an end to their snoring with the correct help (if you want it, of course). 

*name has been changed

For more information on snoring, including the various treatments available, you can visit the NHS website. 

Images: Getty

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