Female snoring is on the rise

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More and more women are overweight, which causes them to suffer from sleep apnoea, resulting in snoring. Melbourne sleep clinics have reported a surge in the number of women seeking help with snoring.

Growing waistlines have been cited as a reason for the phenomenon, which is also linked to sleep apnoea. Epworth Sleep Centre director Darren Mansfield estimated that over the past decade, the number of female patients coming to his clinic had doubled.

“We didn’t see many women at all when I started. Now it’s seen as a more common problem,” he said.

Prof David Hillman, chairman of the Sleep Health Foundation, said obesity and an ageing population were partly to blame for the rise in snoring, with 12.5 per cent of Victorians now believed to be offenders.

One in three snorers was female and one in every 25 women had sleep apnoea, he said.

Snoring and fatigue are the main symptoms of sleep apnoea, which causes interrupted breathing during sleep and is often brought on by obesity, smoking and alcohol.

If left untreated, the disorder can lead to depression, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and diabetes.

Prof Hillman said he was pleased women were more willing to confess to snoring.

“If you think sleep apnoea is a male problem, it isn’t,” he said.

“It’s a real danger we need to recognise because … snoring disturbs the sleep of others, it’s not attractive and sleep apnoea has major health consequences.”

Dr David Cunnington, director of the Melbourne Sleep Disorders Centre, said once women were post-menopausal, sleep apnoea was equally common in both sexes. He welcomed the evolving awareness that the disorder did “not just affect the male stereotype of a heavy, middle-aged truck-driver type with a thick neck”.

Susan Graham, of Footscray, said she had been snoring since her teens but had never imagined sleep apnoea could be the cause of the crushing exhaustion that affected her work and social life.

The 39-year-old state policy officer sought medical help in 2006 and now enjoys quality shut-eye each night…

“Your whole life is different when you get a good night’s sleep, I’ve got so much energy now,” Ms Graham said.

“It makes everyone else’s life in your household so much better.”