Sleep Apnea Not Just A Male Problem, Rising Number Of Women Also Have Disorder
August 16, 2012

Sleep Apnea Not Just A Male Problem, Rising Number Of Women Also Have Disorder

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Sleep apnea, a dangerous disorder linked to cardiovascular disease and found predominantly in men, may be growing as a problem for women as well, according to a new Swedish study.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which frequent pauses in breathing of 10 to 30 seconds occur during sleep, and can occur numerous, perhaps hundreds of times, throughout the night. The disorder increases with age and has long been associated more with men than women. But the study, published online August 16 in the European Respiratory Journal, suggested that women with hypertension and/or obesity were also likely to experience sleep apnea.

Dr. Karl A Franklin of Umea University Hospital and colleagues noted that there have been only a few epidemiological studies conducted in women, and the frequency of the disorder in women “is still uncertain.”

Franklin and colleagues from Umea and Uppsala Universities investigated the frequency and risk factors of sleep apnea in women. The study analyzed 400 women from a random sampling of 10,000 women aged 20 to 70 years old. Participants answered a questionnaire and had a sleep examination.

The researchers found that 50 percent of the women in the study had obstructive sleep apnea. They also found links between age, obesity and hypertension; 80 percent of those with hypertension and 84 percent who were obese had sleep apnea. Severe sleep apnea was present in 31 percent of obese women aged 55 to 70.

“We were very surprised to find such a high occurrence of sleep apnea in women, as it is traditionally thought of as a male disorder,” said Franklin. “These findings suggest that clinicians should be particularly aware of the association between sleep apnea and obesity and hypertension, in order to identify patients who could also be suffering from the sleeping disorder.”

The study was funded by the Swedish Heart Lung Foundation.

According to a 2009 Public Health Agency of Canada survey, sleep apnea affected nearly 860,000 Canadian adults. Conducted as part of the Canadian Community Health Survey, the research found that twice as many men as women reported having sleep apnea.

CBC News reports that there are a number of options for treating sleep apnea. The best treatment option is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This treatment involves wearing a special mask attached to a flow generator that blows a steady stream of air into the nose and down the throat preventing airways from collapsing, and allowing proper breathing to continue through the night.

Other treatments include surgery. A tonsillectomy and UPPP can be done to remove excess tissue from the throat. This option is more invasive. Dental devices and nasal strips are also available for added treatment.

By far the best way to control sleep apnea over the long haul is to make significant lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, and avoiding alcohol, smoking and sedatives.