Women Often Under-Diagnosed with Sleep Apnea

woman tired

Studies have shown that women are less likely to be diagnosed with sleep apnea in comparison to the large numbers of men who are. Often times, typical symptoms that are present in a man, such as breathing pauses at night and extreme sleepiness during the day, are not as apparent in women, making it slightly harder to detect whether a woman has sleep apnea. Usually, the ratio falls between 2 or 3 men for every woman diagnosed. If you are female and aren’t sure whether or not you have sleep apnea, here are some things to consider.

Symptoms that are more present in female sleep apnea patients range between fatigue, insomnia, headaches, restless legs, moodiness, and lack of energy. These symptoms aren’t exactly the classic symptoms seen in men as they are more vague, and therefore can be mistaken for other conditions rather than sleep apnea. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, ask your doctor about the possibility of sleep apnea, as they may be quick to attribute your discomfort with something else. Often times doctors mistakenly diagnose sleep apnea with anemia, hypertension, diabetes, depression, insomnia, fibromyalgia, fatigue from being overworked, and/or hypochondria, to name a few.

Additionally, if you feel as though you are still getting 7-8 hours of sleep, yet the symptoms of fatigue, headaches, and irritability are present, it could be beneficial to ask your bed partner to monitor some of your sleep patterns. They may notice that you have breathing pauses while asleep, or heavy snoring could be occurring. Also, you yourself may notice you make frequent trips to the bathroom to urinate, or have random awakenings during the night.

For women, the risk of sleep apnea is higher during or post-menopause, with the likelihood of developing it being 3 times higher. Obese and overweight women can be at a greater risk for sleep apnea, as are women with high blood pressure. Women who are pregnant, or with polycystic ovarian syndrome can also be at risk.

If you’re experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms in addition to weight gain, depression, waking up gasping for breath, hypertension, or a very dry throat when waking, you may be veering on the side of having sleep apnea. Monitor these possible symptoms, and be sure to inquire with your doctor regarding the possibility of sleep apnea.

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