A new study in the December Journal of Sleep finds that women with sleep apnea have more brain damage than men with the same disorder. We have known for years that people with untreated sleep apnea have an increased risk of developing serious health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, diabetes and depression.
Then about 10 years ago a study came out from the University of California showing that men with sleep apnea also developed damage to their brain. This same research group has now studied 80 participants and found that there are differences when looking at men and women with and without sleep apnea. This study revealed, “that women are more affected by sleep apnea than men and that the women with obstructive sleep apnea have more severe brain damage than men suffering from a similar condition.”
Specifically the brain damage in women affected two areas of the front of the brain, which are involved in both “decision making” and “mood regulation.” They also noted that these women had higher levels of depression and anxiety symptoms. These findings should alert doctors that sleep apnea may be more problematic in women than men and should be treated earlier.
The study also pointed out that we still don’t know when these issues with the brain occurred and which came first, the apnea or the brain damage. Further investigation is still needed to see if earlier intervention would actually curb or resolve the brain damage that has been found in these women.
Therefore, if you or your loved one is a female and could possibly have sleep apnea, Don’t delay!! Get evaluated by a physician, obtain a sleep study to objectively diagnosis the severity of your problem and seek early intervention.