It’s said that men come from Mars and women from Venus. Remember that old book about the differences between men and women? Although many things are different between the sexes, this one may surprise you: sleep apnea symptoms.
The UCLA School of Nursing published a study on women with obstructive sleep apnea and found that their symptoms are different from men’s. Health plays a major role in the differences between the two groups. It is common to think of obstructive sleep apnea patients as overweight males with serious health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure. According to the UCLA study, however, women with obstructive sleep apnea often seem healthy. Their blood pressure is usually normal, and they have subtle symptoms. Although these can be considered positive signs, a sleep-breathing disorder is often misdiagnosed or overlooked for many women. As a result, many do not receive treatment.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder and medical condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts while sleeping. A common cause of sleep apnea is the muscles in the throat falling into the airways, blocking airflow into the lungs. When the airflow is stopped, oxygen cannot enter the bloodstream. Organs and tissues die without oxygen, increasing your risk of serious illness and potentially life-threatening conditions.
How many people suffer from sleep apnea?
There are 22 million Americans who suffer from sleep-related breathing disorders, yet many are unaware of the condition. The condition is more likely to develop in men, but women are not exempt from risk factors. Women account for roughly 40% of patients newly diagnosed with sleep-breathing disorders.
Is Sleep Apnea a Serious Problem in Women?
Is sleep apnea serious for women whose symptoms are mild or unnoticeable? Certainly.
Sleep apnea poses serious health risks and can cause chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and even dementia. Due to its effect on the heart and heartbeat, it can cause heart attacks and heart failure. Researchers found that while sleep apnea is terrible in men, it is even worse in women. As a result, it can lead to heart problems, including heart disease, and affect day-to-day living more seriously than it does for men.
Early detection and treatment of sleep apnea are critical for patients because they can help protect your brain and organs from damage when your blood oxygen level drops.
Sleep Apnea in Women: What Are the Signs?
- Snoring (not always present, and not always loud or frequent)
- Headaches in the morning, especially around the temples
- Loss of memory
- Problems with learning or focusing
- A dry mouth or sore throat when you wake up.
- Insomnia and difficulty sleeping.
- Feeling irritable or depressed?
Some women may experience choking or gasping during sleep, which may cause them to wake up. Affected individuals may wake up but not know why they woke up in these situations. We can perform a sleep apnea test in our office to determine whether you have the condition.
Sleep Apnea and Menopause
Women after menopause are also at a higher risk for sleep-disordered breathing. Menopause can make diagnosis difficult since its symptoms are similar to those of sleep apnea. Symptoms include:
- Periods that are irregular
- Hot flashes
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Fatigue during the day
- Concentration problems
- Loss of memory
- Mood swings
- Incontinence and/or vaginal/urinary problems (dryness, infections)
- A decrease in libido
- Muscle or joint pain
- An unexplained increase in weight
A hormonal condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome may also contribute to this condition. Women who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop sleep apnea symptoms, but thin women are also at risk.
Treatments for Sleep Apnea
Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea in women differ, just as they do in men, depending on the severity of the condition. We can help women with sleep-disordered breathing without resorting to CPAP machines. Please contact our Sleep Apnea Glen Burnie office if you are interested in learning more and we would be happy to schedule a consultation.
Chesapeake Sleep Center
7711 Quarterfield Road, Suite C-1
Glen Burnie, MD 21061