Women and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The bed partners of snorers sleep an average of 62 minutes less per night.

                          Beninati W et al. The Effect of Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea on the Sleep Quality of Bed Partners Mayo Clin Proc 1999 Oct. 74 (10) 955-8.

Although Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome is more common in men it is not unusual for women to also have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. For every 2 to 3 men diagnosed with OSA, 1 woman will be diagnosed with this condition. The ratio increases for woman in the stages of menopause to be equal to the number of men who are diagnosed with OSA. 

Poor sleeping habits are more dangerous for woman than they are for men. This is not to say that it is not an issue for men, but woman who suffer from lack of sleep often experience feelings of anger, depression, and display higher levels of distress and hostility, whereas men do not.

Often women with Obstructive Sleep Apnea are misdiagnosed, as the symptoms for OSA often appear differently in women. The typical model for patients with this syndrome has been overweight, middle-aged males.  Your average woman may just as likely have Obstructive Sleep Apnea and display more psychological symptoms such as depression, insomnia, mood disturbances, etc.

Women with polycystic ovarian syndrom are 30x more likely to have sleep disordered breathing than control subjects.  

Alexandros N.Vgontzas. et Al,  Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Is Associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Daytime Sleepiness: Role of Insulin Resistance, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2001 Feb 86 (2): 517


Pregnancy and Snoring:

An estimated 30% of all pregnant women snore. Snoring is caused by a partial obstruction of the airway as the air passes over the soft tissues in its path. If you are concerned that your snoring has become significant during pregnancy, please discuss it with your doctor.

Women who snore on a regular basis deliver developmentally -retarded babies 7% of the time, versus women who snore occasionally, who deliver developmentally-retarded babies 2.3% of the time.

                                                                                                                                                                Franklin, K. Chest 2000; 117 137-141

Michele Okun, PhD assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology and a psychoneuroimmunologist at the the University of Pittsburgh is studying the impact of sleep disturbances on women, in particular, weeks ten to twenty of pregnancy. This essential time period is when the placenta is formed. Dr. Okun described that the immune system is in a delicate balance. If there is too little inflammation the blastocyst can't implant and if there is too much immune response later the fetus may be rejected. Placental development is critical, as is the level of cytokines present. Elevated cytokine levels are associated with very dangerous outcomes in pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia, low birth weight, and preterm birth. One common reason for elevated cytokine levels during pregnancy is sleep loss.        E. Vitone, Pittmed, Summer 2012


It is important for women to be educated on all of the information related to snoring and symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome to improve discussions with their physicians.