Obstructive sleep apnea affects around 20 million Americans and can lead to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, depression, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Women and Sleep Apnea

Although men are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea, women can also suffer from this deadly condition. In fact, sleep apnea is likely underdiagnosed in women. While some sleep centers report seeing 8 or 9 men for every one woman, the actual proportion of sleep apnea sufferers who are women is more likely 33-45%. One reason why women may be underdiagnosed with sleep apnea is that men are more sound sleepers and may not notice disturbances in their partner's sleep. Also, because some physicians think of sleep apnea as a man's disease, women who report common sleep apnea symptoms (fatigue, daytime sleepiness, mood changes, waking with headaches), are often misdiagnosed with:

  • Anemia
  • Depression
  • Overwork or overstress
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Insomnia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Menopausal changes or other hormonal conditions

Or they may be told they are hypochondriacs with nothing wrong. Overall, the main symptoms of sleep apnea were the same for men and women, but women were more likely to report morning headaches, while men were more likely to report dry mouth in the morning. Women with sleep apnea are more likely to have depression than men.

However, because sleep apnea is misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed in women, there is not enough data about the condition's different effects on men and women. However, what data there is suggests that the mortality rate for women for the dangers of sleep-apnea may actually be higher.

If you are a woman suffering from depression, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, or other conditions, you should consider the possibility that you have sleep apnea. To learn more, please contact a local sleep dentist today.

posted by Dr. Candelaria at 8:04 AM