Women and Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea affects approximately 5% of women vs. 20% in men and that number increases in post menopausal women.  Women are more likely to be misdiagnosed because they present with different symptoms than the common “Sleep Apnea” symptoms (National Sleep Foundation- Women and Sleep Apnea article, 2011. http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/ask-the-expert/women-and-sleep-apnea).

Common Sleep Apnea Misdiagnoses in Women:

Women are often diagnosed in error with one of the following conditions, rather than sleep apnea.

  • Anemia
  • Cardiac or pulmonary illnesses
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Fatigue from overwork
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hypertension
  • Hypochondria
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Insomnia
  • Menopausal changes
  • Obesity

In general, women are more protected from Sleep Apnea until they reach menopause.  Hormones play an important role in providing women protection from Sleep Apnea and when those hormones decrease with age, the incidence of Sleep Apnea increases.  Not every woman who is menopausal will develop sleep apnea and similar to men, women have other risk factors such as weight that play a role in predisposing them to Sleep Apnea.

We currently treat many female truck drivers for Sleep Apnea with very good results.  More recently, mask manufacturers like ResMed and Respironics have released masks designed and customized for women.  For example, the Swift for Her and the FX for Her are masks customized for women- they even offer pink head straps. Respironics offers the GoLife for Women nasal mask.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from women on using CPAP treatment is the fact that they feel as though they have lost their femininity at bedtime.  In fact, both women and men have the same fears about losing their attractiveness at bedtime.  Please refer to my previous article, CPAP isn’t sexy or is it?  There are many issues that initially need to be processed in the bedroom. There are so many great health motivators to consider when it comes to CPAP treatment… it’s hard to overlook these.

So to all of you women diagnosed with Sleep Apnea and on CPAP treatment- you can do this… yes you can!