Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and women are not immune to it. In fact, The Society for Women’s Health estimates that 1 in every 5 women has sleep apnea. Nevertheless, 9 in 10 women with sleep apnea are not aware that they have it. Sleep apnea symptoms can present differently or more subtly in women than in men. In this blog post we will talk about the key differences in sleep apnea symptoms in women and men.
How Sleep Apnea Differs in Women vs. Men
Women are more likely to experience sleep apnea during the REM stage of sleep, which is characterized by rapid eye movement and higher brain activity. This type of sleep apnea tends to be more severe, with longer episodes and significant drops in oxygen levels.
Women may also be more prone to upper airway resistance syndrome, which is a disorder that causes snoring and collapsible airways, but does not result in complete cessation of breathing or drops in oxygen levels. However, it can still lead to disrupted sleep, frequent awakenings, and resultant daytime sleepiness.
Women are more likely than men to wake up from apneas, and suffer greater sleep disruption.
Common sleep apnea symptoms include loud snoring, daytime fatigue, waking up with sore throat and dry mouth, difficulty concentrating during the day and frequent awakenings at night.
While experiencing most common sleep apnea symptoms such as loud snoring, sleep apnea symptoms in women can look different than usual such as:
Hot Flashes At Night
Some sleep apnea symptoms such as experiencing hot flashes at night and mood swings can be misunderstood as menopausal symptoms in women, but it is important to understand if there is a sleep disorder at play. If you experience any other sleep apnea symptoms, it is worth getting tested for sleep apnea.
These conditions can make you more likely to develop sleep apnea:
Menopause or older age
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function)
A family member with sleep apnea