When you try to picture someone who has sleep apnea, you probably have an image of a middle-aged man who is a bit overweight. This individual indeed represents the most likely group to experience obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder characterized by pauses during breathing while sleeping. Experts estimate, however, that for every three men with OSA, one woman has this sleep disorder. Yet, few will ever be diagnosed.
Why aren’t there more women diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea?
The reason is simple. Women tend to complain about different symptoms then men, and the symptoms they experience can be related to a plethora of other diseases. When a doctor has a quick 20 minutes to spend with a patient, it is very hard for him to think that these symptoms can be related to OSA. Because the patients often complain about symptoms that resemble anemia and similar disorders, doctors tend to make a prescription too soon, before even considering a sleeping disorder. Furthermore, according to the statistics, a woman would rather leave the doctor’s office with a prescription for pills instead of a sleep study to diagnose sleep apnea.
In addition, men don’t tend to complain as much about the snoring in a woman because they are themselves louder sleepers. For this reason, many women don’t have the slightest idea that they could have a sleep disorder based on their symptoms alone.
The symptoms women experience and complain the most about to healthcare professionals are as follow:
Symptoms of sleep apnea in women
- Lack of energy
- Restless legs
- Morning headaches
- Mood disturbances
- Sense of being overwhelmed
- Dry mouth upon waking up
In men, the most prevalent symptom of OSA is the snoring. Women may also experience this symptom, but generally to a lesser extent.
Here are some common disorders that sleep apnea is often mistaken with because they share similar symptoms:
- Cardiac diseases
- Being overworked
The next time you consult with a doctor, bring to him the possibility that you might have sleep apnea if you think you are suffering from this disorder. Don’t hesitate to follow his recommendation to do a sleep study. If you are diagnosed with a type of apnea, the treatments for this disorder could increase your quality of life tremendously.