For years we have known sleep apnea to be predominantly common in males rather than females. Therefore the common belief has been that the sleep breathing disorder affects mostly men and a small percentage of women. However, when a recent Swedish report released a medical finding showing the frequency of sleep apnea in women was much higher than what we thought, many were surprised by the data.
The research team working on the study randomly sampled 400 out of 10,000 women with ages ranging from 20 to 70. The results quantified that 50% of women scored within at least the mild range of sleep apnea! This new data containing the sleep apnea frequency found in women has gained the attention of many in the sleep industry.
The study was led by Karl A. Franklin, MD, PhD, from the Department of Surgical and Perioperative Sciences at Umeå University in Sweden. The report also indicated that within the group of women with sleep apnea, 20% percent had moderate sleep apnea and 6% had severe sleep apnea. The research further concluded that the age bracket distribution was not equal, nor was the distribution within the varying weight ranges.
Evidence from the report showed that sleep apnea was related to age, obesity and hypertension but not to daytime sleepiness. From the overall sampling, 84% of the obese women, between the ages of 50-70, had some form of sleep apnea. In addition, 80% of the women with high blood pressure, between the ages of 55-70, were also found to have sleep apnea – either mild, moderate, or severe.
The women’s sleep study was published August 16 in the European Respiratory Journal. Information was unavailable regarding funding and possible conflicts of interest. Regardless of the source, the reality is, women have been overlooked as sleep apnea sufferers for too long.
With snoring as the number one sign for sleep apnea, this led us to another related thought. Does the problem in acknowledging women as sleep apnea sufferers, lie partially within the female population?
When was the last time you asked a female if she possibly snored at night? You might as well go ahead and ask about her weight. Very few women openly admit to snoring and that’s a huge problem. It’s like admitting to passing gas, owning serious pushup bras, or even worse – admitting to their real age!
When women do admit to snoring it’s always sugar coated and almost apologetic. I once heard a woman answering the snoring question like this: “Oh yes, sorry. I do snore but not terribly. I snore gently.” WHAT? Was that a desperate effort to retain a sense of dignity and a lady-like image?
Why do several women feel the same way about answering a snoring question, especially since we know snoring can be the alarm to a much bigger health problem such as sleep apnea? We know snoring KILLS so why do we still tip toe around the discussion? The question is not, “Do you sound like a dying warthog at night?” It is, DO YOU SNORE?
If you’re wondering what snoring has to do with sleep apnea, take a look at our Do You Snore blog: http://sleeptest.com/blog/do-you-snore.html.
We know that sleep apnea sufferers experience repeated pauses in breathing during sleep, causing multiple awakenings. What many of us are still unaware of is that the pauses in breath lower the saturation of oxygen in your blood. This can result in high blood pressure and an increased risk of many heart-related diseases. In addition, sleep awakenings cause acute surges in blood pressure and heart rate, further increasing stress on the heart.
In people with sleep apnea, the cardiac rest achieved in normal and proper sleep is not possible. This is the most alarming component of sleep apnea, since it can lead to complications such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, dementia, high blood pressure, depression, weight gain, and many other health issues.
If you have a loved one who experiences any sleep apnea symptoms such as snoring, gasping for air during sleep, daytime fatigue, or has already been diagnosed with sleep apnea but is possibly CPAP intolerant, please call our office immediately for a consultation with a doctor. Within a few minutes you could be on your way to helping a friend or family member and possibly even saving a life.