Difference in Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Men and Women

Men and women have certain differences in physiology which impact how different disorders manifest or different treatments work for them. And sleep disorders are no exception.

A 2017 study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that men and women experience sleep disorder symptoms in different ways. While the symptoms of sleep apnea start to manifest around the same age in both genders, the impact of these on their lives were seen to be markedly differently. Women were found to be more severely impacted by their symptoms, especially those around daytime sleepiness.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Men and Women

Available statistics show that around 34 million people suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in India, with the prevalence being around 14% in men and 12% in women. While the chances of being diagnosed with OSA is almost equal in both genders, the symptoms and their impact are not the same.

Difference in Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Men and Women

For men, the most common symptom of OSA is snoring. However, that’s not the case with sleep apnea in women. A study conducted in Queensland with 744 participants shows that

  • Women are more likely to feel the effects of sleep apnea in how it causes daytime sleepiness and resultant fatigue
  • Lack of sleep in women is also more likely to manifest in the form of deficits in concentration and memory


Difference in Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

The same study also found that male snoring is more likely to drive their partners out of bed rather than female snoring. This is an interesting finding because it shows that the predominant OSA symptom is men is very noticeable. Because snoring is prominent and disruptive, there are higher chances of men or their partners seeking a solution and being correctly diagnosed with OSA.

However, the sleep apnea symptoms in women - tiredness, daytime sleepiness, or trouble remembering things - are not exclusive to OSA, or sometimes not even noticeable enough to seek help. This often leads to OSA in women being undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

Leaving OSA undiagnosed or a misdiagnosis can cause major health risks for women. If not treated, OSA can lead to type 2 diabeteshigh blood pressure and hypertension and depression. In women, further risks involve hypothyroidism, cognitive impairment, and dementia.

Differences in Treatment of OSA

Differences in the response to different OSA treatment strategies based on gender have not been extensively studied yet.

However, clinical trials suggest that the amount of airway pressure required for men and women for effective CPAP therapy may differ. Owing to the physiological differences in the respiratory tract, men require more airway pressure than women to keep their airway open throughout the night.

That said, CPAP therapy is shown to bring positive results and better quality sleep for OSA patients, both men and women.

Identifying OSA in Time

Sleep is a key element is maintaining a healthy body. Understanding why we sleep will tell you how sleep drives the body’s growth and healing processes, and regulates key bodily functions and hormones. And this is equally true for both men and women.

So it’s important to find out if you are actually having a good night’s sleep. You can do that with your free Sleep Quiz.

And if you notice the symptoms of OSA - snoring, or daytime sleepiness, or regular trouble concentrating - don’t sleep on it! Take the simple and convenient Home Sleep Test to find out if you have a sleep disorder.

Man or woman, there’s the same first step towards a better sleep.

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