A woman sleeps on a late night train in London.
(photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN COOMBS)
A new Israeli study of adults referred for evaluation of suspected sleep disorders has revealed that women tend to underreport their own snoring and underestimate its loudness, leading to underdiagnosis of sleep conditions.
Snoring is the most common sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that involves the cessation or significant decrease in breathing while asleep.
Underreporting of snoring, found in 85% to 98% of patients in whom the disorder is diagnosed, can therefore lead to inadequate diagnostic rates.
The Beersheba-based researchers found that objectively-measured snoring was recorded in 88% of the women referred for evaluation but only 72% reported that they snore.
Among men, however, objectively-measured snoring was recorded in 92.6% of referred cases, and self-reported snoring stood at 93.1%.
The study, involving 1,913 patients with an average age of 49 years, found that both sexes snored at almost identical volume, with a mean maximal snoring intensity of 50 decibels among women and 51.7 decibels among men, similar to the volume of a conversation at home or other quiet setting.
Yet approximately 40% of women who reported themselves as non-snorers were actually measured as having a severe (55-60 decibels) or very severe (60 decibels or more) intensity of snoring. Only 12% of men had the same discrepancy.
“We found that although no difference in snoring intensity was found between genders, women tend to underreport the fact that they snore and to underestimate the loudness of their snoring,” said Dr. Nimrod Maimon, professor at the Ben-Gurion University Faculty of Health Sciences and the head of internal medicine (B Ward) at Soroka University Medical Center.
“Women reported snoring less often and described it as milder. The fact that women reported snoring less often and described it as milder may be one of the barriers preventing women from reaching sleep clinics for a sleep study.”
The findings have been published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal.
The authors of the research concluded that sex-based social stigma likely plays a role in unreliable answers provided by patients.
Such an understanding is of great importance to physicians wishing to know how to best screen for obstructive sleep apnea.
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