Women, it’s not just the guys anymore!
With more women in the workplace, in colleges and running families, it’s no wonder why many women grumble about how exhausted they always feel. Given that the schedule of a 21st century women may include working all day and then coming home to cook and deal with the children, the idea that they may be tired is no stretch. However, in a recent study by Karl Franklin from the University of Sweden, being sleep deprived might not only be from working all day and coming home to do more work. The constant tiredness could potentially be from the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, OSA is the result of muscles relaxing during sleep, and this causes soft tissue in the back of the throat to block the upper airway.
Of course, we have discussed this topic before as our business has seen both an increase of products targeted for woman and a significant upswing in women ordering for themselves online. But our suspicions have been confirmed by this landmark study that used data from 400 women from a sample of over 10,000 aged 20-70. The participants answered a simple sleep questionnaire and were given an overnight sleep test. Although the results should not surprise anyone, it revealed that 50% of these female participants had OSA.
An Interesting Twist
Contrary to most people who suffer from OSA, the symptom of daytime sleepiness only made up a portion of the participants affected by sleep apnea. Age, obesity and hypertension had a direct correlation to the high numbers of women with sleep apnea. This is quite a departure from our typical conception of the main symptoms of sleep apnea as sleep apnea questionnaires revolve around how tired a person is during regular waking hours.
According to the study, “fourteen percent of women aged 55–70 years and 31% of obese women with a body mass index >30kg/m² aged 50–70 years had severe sleep apnea (apnea-hypopnea index of ≥30). Two distinct phenotypes of obstructive sleep apnea were observed: sleep apnea with daytime sleepiness and sleep apnea with hypertension.”
Additionally, out of the 50% of women with sleep apnea, 20% have a moderate form of sleep apnea while 6% have severe sleep apnea. With the absence of daytime sleepiness, analysis revolved around a woman’s age, weight and susceptibility to hypertension.
This certainly begs the question that if 50% of women between the age of 20-70 could potentially have sleep apnea, should they begin to consider being tested if some parameters are met? Of course, the answer can be derived from a person’s overall health and quality of life. If daytime sleepiness is a constant in a women’s life, it seems reasonable to take the Epworth Sleepiness test which can reveal potential sleep apnea. If daytime sleepiness is not an issue but your age, weight or hypertension are within certain parameters, it could behoove a woman to, at a minimum, speak to her doctor about sleep apnea and its effects on the body. Being knowledgeable about the subject of sleep apnea could answer some questions and provide clues to other ailments.
Unfortunately, women are catching up to men in some of the less than positive aspects of adult life. Sleep apnea has shown to accompany or effect many other complications such has heart problems, difficulty with medications and surgery, liver problems, and even cancer and heart attack. Nonetheless, the symptoms of sleep apnea can typically be alleviated through a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. It is proven to be the most effective and least invasive method to treat the disease. Testing is relatively simple and should be considered when risk factors present themselves.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, women who have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea often report that they feel like “a new person” after beginning treatment with CPAP therapy. After three weeks of CPAP therapy, patients experience significantly reduced fatigue and an increased level of energy. Even more benefits for patients who comply with CPAP therapy exist including the reduced risk of heart and liver problems, depression, cancer and heart attacks by reducing the negative aspects of OSA.