Why IS it so taboo for women to snore? Here a self-confessed foghorn shares her eccentric quest for a cure – and reveals what finally did the trick
- Liz Hoggard brings her Mute anti-snoring device with her on dates and holidays
- Plastic contraption fits inside nose and opens airways so you breathe freely
- Liz previously struggled with snoring and went on eccentric quest for the cure
Every time I pack my overnight bag — for a romantic date, a weekend away with friends, or even to share a cabin on a week-long cruise with a girlfriend — I have a comforting ritual: I make sure I have a small transparent box with me.
Sadly, I am not a 50-plus woman who travels light. My overnight checklist includes contact lenses, non-allergenic make-up, an extra pillowcase (so I don’t react to the hotel’s washing powder), pearls, novels, phone, laptop . . . you name it.
But these days, the one holiday deal-breaker is my dinky Mute anti-snoring device: a tiny plastic contraption that fits inside the nose and opens up the airways so you breathe more freely. It’s discreet, pain-free — and it works.
I firmly believe it is what keeps my relationships intact and makes me a more pleasurable house guest.
Of course, you don’t snore. Neither do I. That happens to other women. But let’s be realistic, the mature woman occasionally ‘vibrates’ in her sleep. There may be gentle rumbling noises at 3am.
Self-confessed foghorn Liz Hoggard has been searching for a cure to her snoring (file photo)
So I think it’s time to break this taboo. Admitting you are a woman who snores goes to the very heart of our feminine mystique. It’s considered (dread word) ‘unladylike’.
Men snore, of course. They laugh it off, make embarrassed jokes. Sometimes they’re banished to the spare room by their long-suffering wives and partners. But no one thinks they’re unsexy (or unmasculine) because of a little grunting.
For women, it’s a more painful admission. The image of the female snorer is a cartoon woman, late in years, who has piled on the pounds. Maybe she drinks too much, has cats (all that dander can block the nasal passages), or sets the central heating thermostat too high. No one wants to be that woman.
And, actually, it’s an unfair (and mostly inaccurate) cliche. Weight isn’t the sole cause. I have a dear friend who at 52 is slim as a reed, barely drinks — and rocks the house to its foundations with her night-time snoring.
Which is why I was so thrilled to hear it’s actually young women who are the most annoying nocturnal snorers, overtaking men for the first time ever.
According to a study of sleep disorders conducted by the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital, a third (34 per cent) of females aged 25-34 snore hard at least three nights a week, compared with 31 per cent of men.
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It seems they’re staying up late, playing harder and drinking — just like men.
God bless the millennials. In these enlightened times, they’ve helped us break so many body taboos, from the young women who use period tracking apps to those who refuse to be shamed by a hint of muffin top.
Now, finally, we can admit to foghorn moments without shame.
Snoring isn’t our ‘fault’, of course. It’s as much down to biology as lifestyle habits. Congestion, or simply narrow airways, can affect our ability to breathe freely, disrupting our sleep. But it does feel personal.
It was when I reached 48 that I realised my allergies were getting worse. My flat overlooks a traffic-filled road. In summer, the pollen count is high. I’d wake up feeling congested.
Once sharing a hotel room with an older girlfriend (herself an epic snorer), she exclaimed: ‘You’ll never keep a boyfriend sounding like that!’
I was cut to the quick. After all, she was the one who insisted on opening the grappa at 2am (having alcohol or rich foods before bed exacerbates snoring).
Couldn’t we politely draw a veil over our joint nocturnal snoring? I’d hate anyone to feel guilty about the involuntary sound their body makes while they’re asleep. Surely the kindest thing is for girlfriends on holiday to invest in pure wax earplugs, or even pay a single supplement rather than sharing a room every night?
But the damage was done, I was becoming paranoid about snoring. I waited until my then-boyfriend fell asleep before I dared to exhale. I tried to record myself asleep to find out how bad it was (memo to self: going through seven hours of gently rumbling tape is soul‑destroying).
I tried anti-snoring devices such as the good old tennis ball taped to the back of a T-shirt, and invested in expensive curved anti-snoring pillows (which claim to keep the head extended and open up nasal airway passages).
I stopped lying on my back, which can make the base of your tongue and soft palate collapse, causing a vibrating sound during sleep. I bought a night-time humidifier. But it didn’t work. I’ve always had sensitive, reactive skin, but now it felt like my breathing was always congested.
After sharing a hotel room with an older girlfriend who told her she would never keep a boyfriend sounding like that, she became paranoid about her snoring and tried to find a cure (file photo)
I began to read up on nasal allergies. Allergic rhinitis, which occurs when allergens in the air are breathed in by someone who is allergic to them, irritates and inflames the nasal passages.
Allergens can include dust mites, pollen or pet dander (tiny bits of skin shed by animals with fur or feathers).
In people who are allergic to them, these particles trigger the release of a chemical in the body that causes nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose. It made sense: when someone uses bleach near me, or a strong cologne, I feel slightly breathless, so they seem to be my triggers. And these symptoms can lead to poor or broken sleep.
How glamorous. I was now wheezy, sleep-deprived and an (occasional) menace to anyone sharing a room with me.
I’m not alone. A female friend confided that she now has such bad sleep apnoea (where airways become temporarily blocked) that she has to wear a face mask attached to a machine at night.
Women are generally at a lower risk of sleep apnoea than men, but the risk increases dramatically when we hit menopause. This may be because the female hormones of oestrogen and progesterone provide some protection against snoring and sleep apnoea, so when they plummet, our silent nights disappear, too.
I felt like I’d joined a secret club; the club to which no woman wants to belong.
Then, a year ago, I saw a rather stylish black box in the chemist. ‘Mute: breathe more, snore less,’ it proclaimed.
It’s a tiny nasal dilator, a piece of flexible plastic that you shove up your nostrils to push them wide open. This increases airflow and improves breathing (the manufacturer claims one clinical trial showed airflow increased by an average of 38 per cent).
When in place, you only see a faint curve of plastic running between the nostrils. Hopefully, shortsighted lovers won’t notice.
I could immediately tell I was sleeping more soundly because I didn’t keep waking up constantly. Since I bought it, I’ve had two week-long trips with girlfriends where we shared a tiny room, and (hurrah!) neither of them thinks I have a snoring problem.
I must admit it can sometimes be tricky popping it in in the dark when another person is present. But I take my Mute device everywhere. Staying with friends you never quite know where you’ll be sleeping. And I hate the idea of them wandering into the living room and seeing me vibrating loudly in my makeshift bed.
A classic mouth breather (I can never understand how you inhale and exhale through your nose during Pilates classes), it gives me that extra reassurance.
Now, no one needs to know I’m a snorer — but I’ve vowed to be more honest in my next romantic relationship. After 50, sleeping compatibility is just as important as romantic chemistry.
Officially, the phenomenon of sleep deprivation caused by a partner’s snoring is called ‘second-hand snoring’. And I’d hate to think I was keeping someone awake all night, just because I was too coy to do something about it.
And if you do want a little help…
£16.99 for a 30-night supply, boots.com
Discreet plastic device that is inserted into nostrils to improve airlow.
Pictured: Mute, a discreet plastic device that is inserted into nostrils to improve airlow
BEURER SL 70 SNORE STOPPER
A headset is fixed to your ear to detect snoring and stop it with vibrations. It is also connected to the Beurer Sleep Quiet app, which allows you to analyse your snoring patterns.
Buerer SL 70 snore stopper: a headset is fixed to your ear to detect snoring and stop it with vibrations
£228 with free shipping to UK, smartnora.com
This pebble-shaped device is linked to an air-inflated insert in your pillow. It monitors early sounds of snoring, then releases a gentle movement under your head to disrupt you before you get too loud and wake up your partner.
Smart Nora: this device monitors the early sounds of snoring, then releases a gentle movement under your head to disrupt you before you get too loud and wake up your partner
ANTI-SNORE CHIN STRAP
To stop the physical symptoms that cause snoring, this holds your mouth closed: when it falls open during sleep, the airways are obstructed — resulting in the vibrations that become snoring. It has a comfortable fleece lining and an adjustable Velcro strap.
Anti-snore chin strap: to stop the physical symptoms that cause snoring, this holds your mouth closed
STOP SNORE RING
For a natural alternative, try wearing this acupressure ring on your little finger. It’s designed to apply pressure to specific meridian lines — energy points within your body — to stop you snoring. Wear one on each hand if you are a heavy snorer.
Stop snore ring: this acupressure ring is designed to apply pressure to specific meridian lines — energy points within your body — to stop you snoring
JRING ANTI-SNORING NOSE CLIP
An air purifier inserted into your nose to filter out pollution and dust, thus relieving nasal congestion, which leads to snoring.
Jring anti-snoring nose clip: an air purifier inserted into your nose to filter out pollution and dust, thus relieving nasal congestion, which leads to snoring
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