The Presence of Snoring as Well as Its Intensity Is Underreported by Women

J Clin Sleep Med. 2019 Mar 15;15(3):471-476. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.7678.


Study objectives: Women are underrepresented and thus sleep conditions are underdiagnosed at sleep clinics that evaluate sleep-disordered breathing. The most common sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is snoring; therefore, it is one of the main red flags for suspected OSA. The aim of this study is to determine whether self-reported snoring and snoring intensity by women and men correlates with snoring volume measured objectively during sleep laboratory study.

Methods: Consecutive patients who were referred to a polysomnography (PSG) study in a university hospital over a 2-year period had their snoring volume quantified by means of a calibrated digital sound survey meter. Participants were given a questionnaire in which they were asked to rate the severity of their snoring. The correlation between objective snoring intensity as measured during PSG and the self-reported snoring intensity was evaluated.

Results: A total of 1,913 patients were enrolled in the study. A positive correlation was found between objectively measured snoring intensity and the intensity listed by each participant in the questionnaire. Measurement of the volume of snoring revealed that women snored as loudly as men; however, 28% of the females (189/675) considered themselves to be nonsnorers compared to only 6.9% of men (P < .05). Furthermore, 36.5% of women (69/189) who reported themselves as nonsnorers turned out to have severe or very severe snoring intensity, whereas, in contrast, only 11.7% of men (10/85) of men had this discrepancy. These findings are in concordance with the finding that fewer women quantified their snoring as very severe or severe (38.4%), significantly less than men of whom 61.5% reported their snoring to be severe or very severe.

Conclusions: In a population of individuals referred to a PSG study, although no difference in snoring intensity was found between sexes, women tend to underreport the fact that they snore and to underestimate the loudness of their snoring. Improved awareness of this discrepancy may increase women's access to sleep laboratories, and improve diagnostic rates of sleep apnea in females.

Keywords: obstructive sleep apnea; sex; snoring.