Women and Sleep Apnea

How valuable is a good night’s rest? Can you really put a price tag on it? For so many women, demands on their time have long-term effects on their health, and in turn, their sleep. It’s hard to be everything to everyone when you can’t get enough rest at night! That’s why a recent study from the Society for Women’s Health Research is so important.

About the study.

According to the study, there are several key sleep challenges that women face throughout their lives including hormonal challenges, pregnancy and early parenthood, the impact of sleep on fertility, and menopause. The study also addresses types of sleep and circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders, including sleep apnea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, hypersomnia, shift work sleep-wake disorder, and parasomnias (which are abnormal movements or behaviors during sleep). The impact of these sleep disruptions has a tremendous impact on a woman’s health and overall well-being, including heart disease, diabetes, mental health, cancer, pain, and cognitive decline.

What is sleep apnea?

The Mayo Clinic defines sleep apnea as “a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. You may have sleep apnea if you snore loudly, and you feel tired even after a full night’s sleep.”

How can I know if I have sleep apnea?

The study has determined that one in five women have sleep apnea, yet 90% of them are undiagnosed.   With so many undiagnosed cases of sleep apnea, it is important to look for potential clues and communicate those to your doctor so that proper treatment can be determined. Without treatment, long-term health issues can occur and may prove to be detrimental to a woman’s life.

  • Nighttime clues:
    • Frequent or loud snoring, gasping, or snorting sounds
    • Difficulty falling asleep and frequent awakenings
    • Restless sleep and changes in dreaming
    • Frequent bathroom visits during the night
    • Nighttime heartburn
  • Daytime clues:
    • Depression, anxiety, irritability, or impatience
    • Feeling tired, drained, or lacking energy
    • Feeling sleepy, or even falling asleep at the wrong time and place
    • Forgetfulness, fogginess, fuzzy thinking, and trouble with focus and concentration
    • Being accident prone

Being overweight or having hypothyroidism are contributing factors to sleep apnea. Also, if other members of your family have it, you are more at risk for it, too. Those who have polycystic ovary syndrome or those who have entered menopause are also at greater risk.

Why is knowing this important?

Untreated sleep apnea can create so many long-term health problems. There is a huge concern in the field of Sleep Medicine that many General Practitioners are not recognizing sleep apnea as a possibility, and simply diagnosing women with depression or something else. However, given a proper diagnosis, certain conditions may be avoided with treatment. The study sums up undiagnosed sleep apnea’s effect on the quality of life as such:

  • High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke
  • Depression and other mood problems
  • Missing out on the joys of life, including fun, laughter, relationships, and intimacy
  • Fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and accidents
  • Problems with alertness, memory, and learning
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Overtreatment or mistreatment for other disorders

Learn more about this important study and the work being done at MyApnea.org.

Please find an important Women and Sleep Apnea Fact Sheet at SWHR.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/SWHR_Women-Sleep-Apnea.pdf  If anything you have read in this article or on the Women and Sleep Apnea Fact Sheet sounds familiar to you, please be proactive and print both sides of the fact sheet and take it to your medical provider.