Sleep Apnea in Women: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and women are not immune to it. In fact, The Society for Women’s Health estimates that 1 in every 5 women has sleep apnea. Nevertheless, 9 in 10 women with sleep apnea are not aware that they have it. The signs of sleep apnea can present differently or more subtly in women than in men. In this blog post we will talk about the key differences in sleep apnea symptoms between men and women.

How Sleep Apnea Differs in Women vs. Men

Women are more likely to experience sleep apnea during the REM stage of sleep, which is characterized by rapid eye movement and higher brain activity. This type of sleep apnea tends to be more severe, with longer episodes and significant drops in oxygen levels. 

Women may also be more prone to upper airway resistance syndrome, which is a disorder that causes snoring and collapsible airways, but does not result in complete cessation of breathing or drops in oxygen levels. However, it can still lead to disrupted sleep, frequent awakenings, and resultant daytime sleepiness.

Women are more likely than men to wake up from apneas, and suffer greater sleep disruption.

While experiencing most common sleep apnea symptoms such as loud snoring, women are more likely to present with less common symptoms such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep fragmentation
  • Depressed mood 
  • Fatigue 
  • Headaches
  • Hot Flashes At Night
  • Sexual Dysfunction

Some sleep apnea symptoms such as experiencing hot flashes at night and mood swings can be misunderstood as menopausal symptoms in women, but it is important to understand if there is a sleep disorder at play. If you experience any other sleep apnea symptoms, it is worth getting tested for sleep apnea. 

Risk Factors

These conditions can make you more likely to develop sleep apnea:

  • Menopause or older age
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) 
  • A family member with sleep apnea
  • Overweight

Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause serious health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. In addition, by causing exhaustion and daytime fatigue, sleep apnea can lead you to miss out on fun, laughter, relationships and intimacy as well as affect your day to day mood and performance.

If you experience any symptoms of sleep apnea, it is very important you talk to your sleep healthcare provider. You can also book an online appointment with us at patient.ognomy.com to talk to a sleep specialist who can test, diagnose and treat your sleep apnea all from the comfort of your own home.

Sources

https://swhr.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/SWHR_Women-Sleep-Apnea.pdf
https://www.forbes.com/health/body/sleep-apnea-symptoms-in-women/
https://sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders/shift-work/
https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/43/5/zsz274/5613151?login=false

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