While studies show that men are diagnosed with sleep apnea approximately twice as often as women, this doesn’t mean that this breathing disorder is any less serious within the female population. Women with sleep apnea have period episodes of breathing cessation during sleep that cause varying degrees of oxygen deprivation, which leads to symptoms such as daytime lethargy.
Women are working in jobs and careers longer and harder than ever. Couple this with helping to raise a family and taking care of the home, and it’s not surprising many women complain of being tired. Those with sleep apnea have an additional burden. Tiredness during the day and mental fogginess are two of the most common early side effects of sleep apnea.
Patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a genetic condition that causes the throat muscles to relax while sleeping. The result is a blockage of the upper airway. Women with this disorder can stop breathing hundreds of times a night, with some episodes lasting as long as a minute. Depending on the severity of the condition, oxygen deprivation can wreak havoc on a women’s body and mind.
Therapy with a device called a CPAP machine (the acronym stands for “continuous positive airway pressure”) is designed to prevent the stoppage of breathing through air pressure delivered into the nose through a mask that the patient wears while asleep. What has researchers and medical professionals very concerned, however, is the estimation that only a small percentage of women (and men) who have this disorder know they have it.
In one study, 10,000 women between 20 and 70 took a simple survey about sleep. From that number, 400 of the surveys indicated the possible presence of sleep apnea. Upon overnight testing of these women in a sleep center, results showed that 50 percent did in fact have OSA.
And interestingly, not a large percentage of these women had the common symptom of tiredness during the day. Many of the women’s most obvious symptom was high blood pressure, which doctors know sleep apnea can lead to. More than twice as many obese women than non-obese women in the study were found to have OSA. Of those who tested positive, 20 percent were diagnosed with a moderate form of the condition, while 6 percent had a severe form.
The message to women is simple: sleep apnea can be a dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition. If you have any symptoms, particularly unexplained daytime tiredness and trouble thinking, see a doctor, who is the only one who can properly diagnose OSA.
The CPAP Shop is a leading retailer of CPAP machines, masks and accessories used in the treatment of sleep apnea. To learn more about the CPAP shop, you can visit their website.