Sleep Apnea in Women: CPAP for Women

September 24, 2010 | Sleep Apnea in Women |
Sleep Apnea in Women

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder believed to affect approximately 22 million Americans, with the majority of cases remaining undiagnosed or untreated.1 Traditional research shows that men are 2-3 times more likely to experience sleep apnea than women. However, new research suggests that these estimates could be low, as women could present symptoms differently.2

Sleep apnea affects more than 20 million adults in the U.S. It also brings higher risks of a number of severe health issues. With the acknowledgment through research and sleep health experts that the needs, symptoms, and diagnosis disparities for women are unique to them in many ways, manufacturers and the healthcare continuum are working to address these issues collectively and separately.

Studies About Sleep Apnea For Women

Although men are more likely to have sleep apnea than women, the gap has closed significantly over time. What is also unfortunate is that the gap between those diagnosed and undiagnosed, as well as the gap between patients who are complying with their CPAP therapy and those who are not, are wide and closing far too slowly.

As more studies are done targeting women and sleep apnea, researchers are finding that women with the condition have a more diminished autonomic response than men. With CPAP therapy still the most effective treatment of sleep apnea, its positive effects on restoring autonomic functionality in women are being explored and verified.

There has been significant research showing the body’s autonomic response. It is responsible for controlling blood pressure and heart rate. Sweating is weaker in people with sleep apnea. A UCLA School of Nursing study discovered that this weakened autonomic response is even more diminished in women. The study, which appeared recently in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, utilized three recognized physical and breathing tests with a study group of men and women with and without sleep apnea.

How CPAP Therapy Can Improve The Sleep Apnea Condition In Women

The heart-rate results for these tests show that the impact of sleep apnea on autonomic functions, while significant in men, is more severe in women. This may mean that women are more likely to develop symptoms of heart disease. The good news is that CPAP therapy is widely believed to help improve this condition in women. The low CPAP therapy compliance due to feelings of restricted

movement and discomfort with some masks is one of a number of non-compliance determining factors.

Leading manufacturers have responded with a number of CPAP masks for women that take into account smaller features. They also provide greater freedom of movement, lightness of the apparatus, field of vision, and most of all, comfort. Preferred masks are the nasal and pillow masks by a significant number of women with sleep apnea. So, manufacturers have taken the best aspects of each while eliminating many of the detractors to comfort, simplicity, and freedom of movement.

These manufacturers have incorporated minimalist designs and superior seals. They’re also soft, breathable, and pliable materials, and an open field of vision for reading, watching TV, or wearing glasses. Very quiet functionality is also paramount as well as hassle-free movement in every direction. Even accommodation for varying facial sizes and features has been taken into account.

Incorporated into this new breed of CPAP masks for women are the simplicity of assembly, disassembly, and cleaning. The goal is to encourage CPAP users to easily adapt and continue CPAP therapy so they receive the maximum benefit from their treatment.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Women

According to a recent article in Psychology Today, an estimated 6 percent of women of all ages are living with moderate to severe OSA.2 The same research indicates that this number increases to approximately 20 percent by menopause.

While most women may experience the traditional symptoms of sleep apnea (loud snoring, gasping for air, headaches, daytime fatigue, etc.), they may also experience other symptoms that are not connected to the disorder. These symptoms can include:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Insomnia symptoms
  • Feeling overwhelmed and irritable
  • Restlessness

Improving Your Sleep

The current gold standard for treating sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, therapy. CPAP therapy relies on a machine to send pressurized air to an individual’s airway via a tube and mask to ensure the airway remains open and the individual continues to breathe. While the first step in proper sleep apnea treatment is diagnosis, The CPAP Shop is here to make sure you get the most out your CPAP therapy. For women, that may mean using machines and masks designed specifically for you.

CPAP Machines for Women

ResMed Airsense for her

The ResMed AirSense 10 For Her was designed specifically with women in mind. Anatomically, women breathe more shallowly than men do. So, the AirSense 10 For Her uses a special algorithm to increase flow sensitivity and response time to apnea events. This provides more comfortable therapy all night long.

The ResMed AirSense 10 For Her also includes an integrated heated humidifier for patients living in dry climates or for those who wake up with a sore throat. The easy-to-navigate menus make accessing your sleep data or changing your comfort settings simple.

CPAP Masks for Women

Over the years, many CPAP mask manufacturers have introduced masks designed specifically for the facial features of women. While everyone’s face shape may be different, these masks aim to make therapy as comfortable as possible for the majority of users.

Things To Keep In Mind While Dealing With CPAP For Women

Here are some things to keep in mind when dealing with CPAP for women.

  • Just because you don’t snore doesn’t mean you don’t need CPAP. Other symptoms include daytime fatigue, obesity, lack of energy, morning headaches, awakening gasping, or dry mouth on awakening.
  • Look for masks with a smaller profile or extra small nasal pillows to allow for smaller facial features.
  • Low-profile head straps and soft wraps are more comfortable for a woman’s fit.
  • To increase compliance, speak to your doctor about the best fit and model for you. Manufacturers have begun to take notice of the rise and have been designing masks specific to women.
  • Become informed and knowledgeable about sleep apnea and the necessary equipment.  Knowledge allows you to make the proper decisions about CPAP therapy.

ResMed AirFit P10 Nasal Pillows CPAP Mask For Her

P10 CPAP face mask

This mask continues to be one of the most popular choices for women. The AirFit P10 For Her by ResMed offers a minimal contact design – only the cushion and headgear make contact with the face. This is perfect for users who may experience claustrophobia with traditional CPAP therapy, or for those who enjoy reading before bed. The nasal pillows sit just inside the nose, providing direct yet comfortable therapy. The ResMed AirFit P10 is easy to take on and off, making middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom easy.

ResMed AirFit ™ P10 For Her Nasal Pillow

• Offers a secured seal, freedom of movement, and minimal facial contact

Buy Today

ResMed Quattro Air Full Face CPAP Mask For Her

ResMed CPAP mask for women

For users who prefer a full face mask, the Quattro Air For Her is one of the lightest options on the market. Traditional full face CPAP masks can be bulky and weigh you down. The ResMed Quattro Air is made up of only four parts and reduces mask bulk for a comfortable night’s sleep. The dual wall cushion offers a secure seal while still providing maximum comfort, especially on the nose bridge. No need to worry about noisy air – the exhalation vents quietly direct air away from you and your bed partner for an uninterrupted night of sleep.

Philips Respironics DreamWisp Nasal CPAP Mask

Philips Respironics DreamWisp Nasal CPAP Mask with Headgear

Although the DreamWisp is not specifically for women, it has a wide variety of cushion sizes, including petite, to accommodate a number of facial shapes. Additionally, the hollow frame allows air to flow from the tube connection to the cushion, creating a custom, secure seal for every user. The headgear is breathable and offers 4 points of contact for increased stability throughout the night. 

Philips Respironics DreamWisp Nasal Mask

• Versatile design and innovative engineering create a superior CPAP therapy experience for consistent compliance

Purchase Now

The CPAP Shop prides itself on making sure all of our customers have the tools and equipment they need to get the most out of their therapy. If you have any additional questions about a particular mask or want to learn more about women and sleep apnea, our knowledgeable customer care team is standing by. Give us a call at 866-414-9700 or email us at

This post was updated on November 17, 2020.


  1. American Sleep Apnea Association. Sleep Apnea Information for Clinicians. Accessed Nov 2020.
  2. Breus, Michael J. Psychology TodayNew Findings on Sleep Apnea in Women. Published 2019 June 26. Accessed Nov 2020.
Chris Vasta


Chris Vasta

Over a 10+ year career at PHH Mortgage managing a $100 million portfolio, Chris Vasta learned the ins and outs of the business world. He learned how to establish business relationships, lead a multi-prong team, and implement strategies for long-term growth. In 2007, Vasta used that experience to transition his role into president of The CPAP Shop. Over his tenure, Vasta has been involved in everything from website design to warehouse layout. His hands-on approach with customers has evolved into an in-depth understanding of the challenges of beginning and adhering to sleep therapy. He often provides his insights on product…

0 Comments Leave new

  • margolex

    I have a small and narrow face, with very narrow nose bridge; I’m a nose and mouth breather, currently using a full-face mask that continues to slip and leak no matter how many times my therapist adjusts it.  I also use a chinstrap.  Is there a mask or a work-around for someone with such a narrow nose bridge that none of the current masks will properly seal??  This is driving me nuts.  Note: like “Marfan female” below, I have a connective tissue disease (Ehler-Danlos Syndrome) that causes my apnea.  I have a typical EDS body: short, petite, narrow features, high and narrow nose bridge.  Help!

  • Cpap user

    I have been using a c-pap mask for many years, I have struggled with a mask that is too big for my face and I have made it work.  It has been putting pressure on my teeth when I wear it but I didn’t think too much of it until recently when I realized my teeth had actually shifted and now my bite is off causing me problems with my jaw and teeth.  I now need braces…yikes….I need to find a mask that puts no pressure on my teeth at all….All of the masks that I have seen so far rest under the nose…any suggestions for me?

  • Tez73

    @Melica Paulette Buche   I am glad that they are not only providing us with something that helps us to breathe but also something that is as attractive as possible.  I’m not thrilled about wearing this contraption but seeing as I do then I’d certainly rather it was pretty in pink than the “crusty brown” that you refer to.

  • Casscayde

    I have very severe sleep apnea for a woman. I am having major issues with masks as I am a mouth and nose breather, I have had 4 different masks and 2 different machines to try and get a system I’m comfortable with but nothing is working for me. I’m currently using an aflex machine with a Mirage Liberty mask but because I have an extremely small nose the smallest nose pillows are actually making my nostrils spilt after a few nights use so then I don’t wear it. Are there any interchangeable nose pillows for that mask that are a lot smaller, or are they making a ladies version?

  • Susan Matheson

    The Swift FX nasal pillows angle is wrong for me therefore leaks occur. Does the Swift LT use the same pillows?

  • Looking for the right one

    I have a zest mask, but I also have a high bridge of the nose, and the zest leaves a red mark every night. I tried a little silicon/rubber thing that was supposed to pad the nose, it created a huge leak that I could not get rid of. If the mask was the same width, but about 1/2″ taller, it would be perfect. Is there a mask that would work for me?

    • admin

      Hello Theresa,

      Have you ever tried nasal pillow masks such as the Swift FX by ResMed or GoLife by Respironics? This would eliminate the need for a mask to fit the length of the nose. If a nasal pillow mask is not an option, one mask with a longer profile would be the old style profile lite by respironics. It is a longer shaped “triangle” which might work. There are some drawbacks such as the forehead piece and weight.

      If you would like to discuss further, please do not hesitate to contact us. All our information can be found on our website at

      Thank you

  • Marfan female

    Now that the definition of Marfan Syndrome has finally been updated to include sleep apnea as one of the many complications (though it’s amazing how few doctors get that), how about some manufacturer making products for the Marfan community? There are a LOT of us. As a woman with Marfan, I have a hell of a time trying to use CPAP. Not only in my face much, much smaller than an obese man, but my long, narrow face and high bridged nose means that even things designed for women do not fit me (CPAP masks, eyeglasses, swim goggles). Please work with the National Marfan Foundation to help us narrow-faced, mouth-breathing marfanoid sleep apnea sufferers. I have given up on CPAP, the pillar procedure was a total failure, and now I just live with sleep apnea. It’s not good.

    • admin

      Thank you for your comments. It might be worthwhile to try some of the nasal pillow masks including the ResMed Swift FX for her or the ResMed Bella as facial structure is less of a measuring gauge with nasal pillow systems.

      Thank you,
      The CPAP Shop Team

  • Melica Paulette Buche

    I cannot believe that this has never been considered before. Please don’t insult our intelligence with this “feminine colors” crap. It’s not about needing something to accomodate our hairdo. It’s about needing to breathe and sleep in a mask that fits our face. Women’s heads are smaller than men’s. Wow. They just now figured that out? Well I guess I should be grateful that someone even considered women. I will be ordering the mask. There is only one full face mask for women available. I will try it. What choice do I have other than struggling with something designed for a head twice as big as my own. Pink is nice but frankly it could be crusty brown and I would buy it if it fit my face.

    • admin

      Dear Melica,

      Thank you for your comments. Unfortunately, you are correct in that most full face CPAP masks have previously been geared toward men. This is due, in part, because men were most prone to sleep apnea. However, in recent years, this dynamic has changed and has precipitated a move to create more women oriented CPAP equipment. Obviously, the color pink was chosen just to differentiate a woman’s CPAP mask from a men’s.

      Hopefully, you approve of the mask and it fits comfortably. If not, we are happy to replace it and work with you on finding the perfect fitting CPAP mask. Please do not hesitate to contact us.

      The CPAP Shop Team

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