Sleep Disorders Often Missed in Women

Although sleep apnea is a common problem, the diagnosis is often missed in women.

Women are often surprised to learn they have obstructive sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder. This is because the most typical patient treated for sleep apnea is an overweight, middle-aged man.

Both men and women with sleep apnea may have brief periods of silence during their sleep, followed by snoring, indicating that they may not be breathing.

Signs of Sleep Apnea

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Loud snoring
  • Morning headache
  • Gasping or snorting sounds during sleep
  • Feeling tired upon awakening
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability

These symptoms are often more subtle in women than in men. Women with sleep apnea may not snore as loudly as men. Instead, they may experience frequent awakenings and have trouble falling or staying asleep. During the day, they may feel anxious or overly tired. As a result, their symptoms are more likely to be evaluated for depression or insomnia than a sleep disorder.

It’s important for women to know the signs of a sleep disorder. Sleep apnea has been associated with heart disease, stroke and sudden death and should be evaluated by a physician.

If you think you may have a sleep disorder, talk to your physician. He or she will evaluate your symptoms and, if necessary, refer you to an accredited sleep center for an overnight study.

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Date Last Reviewed: September 17, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Eileen Engle, MD

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