Sleep Apnea in Women

Women & Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea in Women is Often Overlooked

The Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) sufferer is often portrayed as a middle-aged man who snores like a buzzsaw.  While obstructive sleep apnea is more common in men, many women suffer from OSA as well.  But women’s sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed, leaving women with OSA untreated and at great risk for serious related health problems.  

Studies have shown that about 4% of men and 2% of women have obstructive sleep apnea.  But women account for only about one eighth of the sleep apnea patients diagnosed each year.  Women with OSA often don’t know they have this serious medical condition for several reasons.  Because OSA is still thought of as a man’s disease, some doctors don’t even consider it when determining a woman’s diagnosis.  Also, women with OSA often first complain of symptoms not unique to sleep apnea (e.g. insomnia, fatigue, depression) and are therefore more likely to be misdiagnosed and less likely to be referred for a sleep evaluation.  Finally, women with sleep apnea often do not have the typical sleep apnea symptoms of snoring and gasping for breath.  

Women with obstructive sleep apnea may not be loud snorers, or they may not snore at all.  They may not have blocked breathing during sleep and if they do, it may be very subtle.  They may not complain of severe daytime sleepiness.  Instead, they may be plagued with morning headaches and sore throats, irritability, poor concentration, restless legs, insomnia, and fatigue.  Because these are not the traditional symptoms of sleep apnea, they are often attributed to some other ailment.

Common Misdiagnoses for Women’s Sleep Apnea

Women with OSA are often incorrectly diagnosed with one of the following conditions instead of sleep apnea:

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Hypochondria
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Anemia
  • Obesity
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Menopausal Changes

This mistake can have dangerous and even deadly consequences.   Those with obstructive sleep apnea are at a greatly increased risk for several life-threatening cardiovascular conditions including heart attack, hypertension, and stroke.

Women’s Sleep Apnea and Related Health Issues

Sleep apnea is linked to an increased risk of several serious health conditions.  The other side of that coin is that those suffering from some of these conditions have reported improvement after their sleep apnea treatment.

  • Hypertension
  • Heart Disease
  • Irregular Heartbeat
  • Type-II Diabetes
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Abnormal Liver Function
  • Obesity/Weight Gain
  • Adult Asthma
  • Acid Reflux
  • Daytime Sleepiness

Obstructive sleep apnea does not discriminate.  It can be a problem for men and women of any age.  If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms of sleep apnea, contact The Snoring Center today!  One of our minimally invasive office procedures may be right for you!

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