What Women Need To Know About Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Typically, people affected by sleep apnea are overweight males who have reached or exceeded middle age. But according to the latest research studies, OSA in particular could be more dangerous to females.

How Can OSA Affect Women?

A 2018 study released at an annual medical conference suggested that OSA can have a serious impact on females. The study examined data from nearly 5,000 participants, and monitored their heart rate during their sleep. 

Researchers found that those with OSA symptoms (such as snoring) were more likely to have enlarged walls in the heart, which caused the heart to work harder. This was observed in both male and female participants, but females were more likely to experience it.

In addition to the negative impact on heart health, females are also at a higher risk of being misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed with OSA. The reasons for this are unclear, but some have suggested it could be due to the fact that females are less likely to report OSA symptoms -- or because doctors are less likely to refer them to a sleep specialist since they don’t fit the typical OSA patient profile.

So OSA can be potentially more dangerous to females, yet they are less likely to be diagnosed with it, which only increases the risk. This is why it’s important to be familiar with the symptoms of this sleep disorder.

Common OSA Symptoms In Women

Another problem with OSA is that it can easily go unnoticed. People who suffer from it wake up multiple times during the night, but they’re mostly unaware of it. Some studies suggest that up to 80 per cent of people who have this problem are not diagnosed with it. 

So if you’re female, it’s important to ask your partner to monitor your sleep and keep an eye on any of the following symptoms: snoring (even if it’s not loud), snorting, and / or gasping for air.

There are other symptoms that could also mean you have OSA. The most common are lack of restorative sleep, excessive fatigue during the day, lack of energy, frequent morning headaches, fibromyalgia, and high blood pressure.

You should also know that you may have a higher risk of developing OSA if you are pregnant or have other existing health conditions, such as PCOS, obesity, anxiety, and depression. 

Treating OSA 

Due to its success rates, CPAP therapy (which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is the standard treatment offered to people affected by OSA. CPAP is administered via masks that deliver air to the patient so that the airways don’t collapse when they’re asleep. 

There are several types of CPAP masks: those that only cover the nose, and full-face masks. CPAP can also be delivered via a two-pronged device. The prongs are slipped into the patient’s nose, so they can receive air via a tube that is connected to the CPAP machine. 

Although wearing a mask to bed may sound uncomfortable, CPAP devices have come a long way and can now be comfortably used while you sleep, even if you’re a side sleeper. In fact, you can enjoy a more restful sleep while wearing a CPAP mask, since you won’t experience sleep interruptions. Most people get used to CPAP therapy within 6 weeks of starting treatment. 

CPAP therapy can benefit you, whether your symptoms are moderate or severe. But the first step is getting diagnosed by a sleep specialist. 

What To Do 

Getting an accurate diagnosis is essential to prevent the health consequences of OSA we’ve discussed in this article. If you think you may have OSA, get in touch with SleepQuest to arrange a consultation with one of our experts. 

We have a range of advanced CPAP devices that can be easily personalized and that have been selected to help you enjoy better sleep. We’re experts in making OSA treatment comfortable and effective, and our priority is helping you enjoy better quality of life through restful sleep.