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Common Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Women

woman with sleep apnea The stereotypical sleep apnea patient is an older, overweight man, and although that type of patient is quite common, women also get sleep apnea. Unfortunately, they frequently go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed, which allows this potentially dangerous condition to continue to affect their health and well-being.

In this blog, the board-certified sleep doctors at eos sleep explain how to recognize common sleep apnea symptoms in women so you can get the diagnosis and treatment you need.

What is sleep apnea?

It is a common, yet serious, sleep disorder that’s characterized by repeated pauses in breathing as you sleep. These pauses can occur repeatedly throughout the night, disrupting your ability to get the deep, restorative sleep you need.

You may not realize you have a problem unless your partner notices that you stop breathing, or he or she complains about your snoring. This can prompt you to visit a sleep specialist, who can diagnose sleep disorders by using a sleep study.

Who is more affected by it - men or women?

Men are about twice as likely to have this sleep disorder when compared to women. However, men are diagnosed almost 8 times as often as women.

This means that many women have sleep apnea, but they’re either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Part of the reason for this may be that women are more likely to see their regular physician instead of a sleep specialist about their symptoms. In addition, classic symptoms of this disorder – such as loud snoring – may be present in women, but they’re also likely to have somewhat different symptoms.

If it's not properly diagnosed, this disorder can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and increased risk of driving or workplace accidents. It also increases your risk of other serious, chronic conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea in women?

Women are likely to have some of the following symptoms:

  • Snoring (can be light)
  • Insomnia
  • Restless legs
  • Depression
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • A sense of feeling overwhelmed
  • Sleepiness
  • High blood pressure that’s hard to control
  • Obesity
  • Fibromyalgia
  • The need to use the restroom frequently at night

What causes this disorder?

It usually occurs when your airway becomes partially or fully blocked during sleep. This can happen for reasons including the following:

  • Throat muscles and tongue relax more than normal
  • Tongue and tonsils are large when compared to the opening into your windpipe
  • Being overweight, which makes your fat tissue thicken the wall of your windpipe
  • Aging, which limits your brain signals’ ability to keep your throat muscles stiff during sleep

Women also face some unique risk factors for developing this disorder. Their risk increases after menopause and during pregnancy.

How is it treated?

It's often treated by using non-invasive treatments such as CPAP or oral appliances. These are often the first treatments recommended. If these aren’t effective enough, minimally-invasive procedures or inpatient or outpatient surgery may be suggested. These can help correct the underlying structural problem that’s causing your disorder and symptoms.

If you’re experiencing snoring, fatigue, depression, or another symptom associated with sleep apnea, make an appointment today with eos sleep. We can conduct a sleep study to definitively diagnose or rule out the presence of sleep apnea and ensure that you get effective treatment and the restorative sleep you need.

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