03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

When Power Snoring Exceeds A Power Saw

Think you've got it bad putting up with a snoring bed partner? Well, think again. This month a British woman has been recorded as one of her country's loudest snorers. Her snore is so loud that from a decibel standpoint, it's louder than a jet plane!

Impossible? Not at all. Though snoring rarely exceeds 85 decibels, sixty-year-old Jenny Chapman comes in at 111.6 decibels, which could drown out a spinning washing machine, diesel truck, and speeding express train.

People confuse decibels all the time, because they aren't "units" per se. A decibel is literally one-tenth of a bel--the number of bels (named after Alexander Graham Bell) being the common logarithm of the ratio of two powers. In other words, they measure a ratio of powers. Decibels do measure loudness, but it's best to think of them in terms of percentages because they aren't quantities of anything. Here's a list of common sounds and their associated decibels:

Decibel Level



The softest sound a person can hear with normal hearing


Normal breathing


soft whisper


rainfall, refrigerator, large office


normal conversation


Some research suggests that any sound above this range can stimulate the nervous system

70 - 95

garbage disposal

75 - 85

flush toilet


doorbell, ringing telephone

80 - 90



heavy traffic, noisy restaurant


car horn, baby crying, shouting in ear, power saw, leaf blower






rocket launching from pad

So what can Jenny do to tone down the volume (and invite her poor husband back into bed who sleeps in another room)? She's been working on living a healthier life--cutting back on alcohol and food intake at night, and exercising more.

Though snoring is a multi-factorial problem, studies have long proven that excess weight, alcohol use, and being too sedentary can trigger or exacerbate the problem. When Jenny manages to gain better control of her snoring, she won't just make her husband happy. But she'll also make herself happier. Less ferocious snoring means more restful sleep.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD

The Sleep Doctor™

This article about snoring is also available at Dr. Breus's official blog, The Insomnia Blog.