If you’re a woman over 40, you may be a snorer and not even realize it. Or if you know you snore, you may not want to talk about it with your partner or your doctor. It’s just not ladylike. Yet snoring could have a negative impact on every area of your life.
Women tend to begin snoring later in life than men. Snoring is more common and more severe once we are post-menopausal.1 The National Sleep Foundation reported that 43 percent of perimenopausal women report experiencing symptoms of a sleep disorder, such as snoring, but that number increases to 50 percent in post-menopausal women.2 That may be because estrogen has a protective effect on the muscles that dilate your upper airway. When your estrogen levels dip, those muscles tend to relax and your likelihood of snoring increases. Snoring may also be caused by narrow, blocked or obstructed nasal passages.
Because your snoring may be quieter than a man’s, you may not even be aware of it. Or if you are, you may think it’s no big deal. But snoring after menopause can be tied to depression, insomnia, headaches, daytime fatigue and tension.3 And if you’re too tired to think or concentrate, your workplace performance may also slide. Does this resonate with you? If so, it’s time to take action and make some changes.
Nasal breathing is the way we are designed to breathe and supports your sleep health as well as your functioning when awake
Women who breathe through their mouths at night may actually sleep lighter, wake up more easily during the night and awaken less refreshed. Feeling fatigued, they may be less able to concentrate. If you’re already having concentration problems due to hormonal fluctuations, why add to the issue? Breathing through your nose improves sleep quality.It also slows your breathing rate, which can be calming. And because the nose moistens, filters and warms the air, nasal breathing supports lung health.
Many women find that wearing an easily adjustable over-the-counter nasal device called Mute while sleeping enhances their ability to breathe through their nose. Mute very comfortably opens and structurally supports the nasal airway to increase nasal airflow and help alleviate snoring.
Strategies for improving your sleep after age 40
Post-menopausal women may have a higher risk for sleep problems than younger women but fortunately, there are things you can start doing immediately that may improve the quality of your sleep.
- Exercise in the morning. One study published in the journal SLEEP4, found that overweight, post-menopausal women who exercised in the morning have an easier time falling asleep and experience a better-quality sleep than evening exercisers.
- Tune out from technology about one hour before bedtime to prevent blue light exposure, which suppresses melatonin the hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle.
- Prioritize seven to nine hours of sleep time and establish a consistent wake time (7 days/week). It’s the single-most important cue for setting your internal biological clock.
- Breathe through your nose at night, especially if you snore or suffer from nasal congestion. Using Mute will help. Likely, you will have an ‘aha’ moment when you feel an increased ability to breathe through your nose, enhancing your breathing and helping to combat snoring.
- Keep your cool. Choose cotton sheets and sleepwear because they are more breathable. Turn down the thermostat. And try taking a warm shower or bath soon before bedtime. This has a calming effect on your body and mind, and allows your body temperature to naturally drop as you drift into sound sleep.
- Do not look at the clock if you awaken during the night. This stimulates the brain as you start counting the hours of remaining sleep and thinking about the day ahead.
Snoring among women is not as rare as once thought. If you still have sleep issues after trying these tips, it may be time to have a candid talk with your physician or a medical sleep expert about your symptoms.
About the author: Nancy H. Rothstein, MBA, is known as The Sleep Ambassador and Director of CIRCADIAN Corporate Sleep Programs, Nancy is dedicated to helping people sleep well so they can live well. Nancy consults and lectures on Sleep Wellness to Fortune 500 corporations, the travel industry, universities and to other organizations, awakening leadership to the ROI of a good night’s sleep and providing sleep education/training initiatives for employees at all levels. Rothstein serves as a member of the NIH Sleep Disorders Research Advisory Board.