Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Women
While many associate obstructive sleep apnea with being male, middle-aged, and snoring, OSA is a health risk for women as well. Nearly 1 in 5 women have sleep apnea, but 9 out of 10 of them are unaware!
Because sleep apnea is more commonly diagnosed in men, existing articles typically describe symptoms and risks through male-oriented research. For the 11% of females who display at least mild symptoms of OSA, we should tackle the question: what is sleep apnea like for women?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that affects men and women differently. As the following article explains these differences, you might realize that your tiredness and forgetfulness might just be a sign to seek out professional diagnosis!
Common OSA Symptoms in Women
The common symptoms of sleep apnea commonly listed online include…
– Loud snoring
– Excessive daytime sleepiness
– Silent pauses in breathing
– Choking or gasping during sleep
Not all women with OSA will display these symptoms. For instance, even though some women snore, they also show atypical symptoms like headaches and tension. This could be associated with depression and insomnia rather than sleep apnea.
Instead of loud snoring, or observable periods of breathing disorder, women may display signs of sleep apnea in these following ways:
– Trouble falling asleep
– Restless sleep
– Changes to dreaming
– Feeling regularly overwhelmed
– Morning headaches
– A lack of energy after a full night of sleep
– Dry mouth and sore throat in the morning
Because these symptoms are less likely to be associated with sleep apnea, many women may overlook their sleep problems and seek out inefficient treatment. Let’s take a look at the risk factors and signs of sleep apnea in women.
Risk factors that increase chances of Sleep Apnea for Women
1. A smaller lower jaw
A smaller lower jow is common in female anatomy, it is an indication of a narrower upper airway and a higher risk of breathing disorder.
Post-menopausal women are 3 times as likely to have sleep apnea. In menopause, levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease. This decreases muscle tone in a woman’s throat, increasing the chance of obstructed breathing. Postmenopause also heightens women’s fat mass, which causes weight gain and makes them prone to obesity-induced sleep apnea.
Pregnancy leads to hormonal changes, physical changes, and emotional changes:
During pregnancy, negative emotions and OSA-related sleep disruptions will decrease a woman’s quality of life and put her at a higher risk for severe sleep apnea symptoms. Therefore, it is especially essential for a pregnant woman to monitor any dubious changes, and perhaps even ask a family member or bed partner to observe and track potential symptoms.
Health Consequences of Sleep Apnea
These female-specific risk factors lead to illnesses that most heavily influence women’s health.
The legitimate risk of sleep apnea for women brings us to seriously consider its health consequences. In fact, while sleep apnea is more common in men, it might induce more serious effects on women.
In general, women have a lower Apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). This means on average, women have less severe forms of sleep apnea. For the same level of AHI, however, women tend to be more obese than men, potentially due to differences in fat distribution. Obese women with OSA have significantly increased hypercapnic and hypoxic responses, whereas this increase is not present for obese men.
Cardiovascular Health and Mortality
In addition, A UCLA sleep apnea study suggests that, compared to men, “women are more likely to develop symptoms of heart disease, as well as other consequences of poor adaptation to daily physical tasks.” Patients with cardiovascular health problems should seek sleep apnea treatment options having one condition worsens the other. In fact, untreated severe OSA is associated with cardiovascular death in women. And vice versa, conditions like high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and heartburn may also increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea. Along with other comorbidities like arthropathy, dementia, and depression that are more common for women, these indicators explain the increased risk of mortality in female sleep apnea patients.
For an extended report on female sleep apnea symptoms, risks, effects, check out this research study.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea in Women
If you are not yet diagnosed with sleep apnea, like the 9/10 women with OSA symptoms, you could consult a sleep medicine physician, contact your health care provider, or order an at-home sleep study today!
If you receive a positive obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to better the situation. For instance, weight loss will directly combat obesity-related risk factors, and a consistent sleep schedule will help you increase the hours of undisrupted sleep. But of course, this should not replace professional treatment.
Considering the distinctive nature of sleep apnea syndrome in women, the variety of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines “for her” on our market, therefore, aims to tackle these female-associated OSA characteristics.
For instance, Resmed’s APAP, AutoSet for Her therapy takes note of women’s lower AHI level and differentiated obstructive symptoms, as shown below:
While many typically assume that “for her” means a color and style change suited for female preferences, many products do accommodate the needs and comforts of female patients.
Find the perfect CPAP supplies for her.
About the Author
Dr. Burggraaff is double board certified in the two most relevant fields for treating snoring and sleep apnea: Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat doctor) and Sleep Medicine. This allows Dr. Burggraaff the unique advantage of becoming intimately familiar with the relationship between how we breathe and how it relates into sleep.