To many people, a diagnosis of sleep apnea seems like something that should only happen to older men who are a little heavier than they should be. It is perhaps surprising then, that scientists have concluded that disruptive sleep apnea has a greater effect on women than it does on men.
We get many questions from our patients about sleep apnea, and what it means for men & women in the New Orleans area. We’ve put together some recent findings of how sleep apnea affects individuals of different genders differently, and why it is that women have been found to be at greater risk than men.
Sleep Apnea Overview
Sleep apnea is a form of sleeping disorder that is characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow and infrequent breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing is called an apnea (hence the name) and they can last from several seconds to several minutes.
Understandably, this is dangerous to one’s health, because when breathing is paused, carbon dioxide builds up in the bloodstream, a chemical receptor is triggered in the brain, and the sleeping individual wakes up to breathe normally again before falling asleep.
This interrupts the normal cycle of sleep, which can cause many health problems such as chronic fatigue and poor memory. Typically, sleep apnea is associated with men who are over the age of 65 and even more so in those who are overweight. However, recent studies have shown that women are actually at greater risk of sleep apnea.
As a part of a study at UCLA, scientists discovered interestingly that obstructive sleep apnea ends up affecting women in a completely different way than men. It had been hard to tell this before, because most studies and treatments were focused on men because of the assumption that men were the most at-risk.
The conclusion of the study was that women who suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to receive permanent brain damage as a result, compared to the much milder effects in men.
Effects on Men vs. Women
In women’s brains, the the anterior cingulate cortex and the cingulum bundle were affected heavily. These areas are involved in decision-making and mood regulation.
Additionally, women who suffer from sleep apnea are much more likely to also suffer from higher levels of depression and anxiety than men who also suffer from sleep apnea.
Because these dangers pose a much more serious risk to women than they do to men, these studies proved that there needs to be more advanced screen procedures and treatment options available for women.
Treatment Needs of Women
Sleep apnea in women really should be discovered much earlier than it does in men for treatment to be most effective. Unfortunately, sleep apnea is a difficult thing to diagnose, because someone who suffers from sleep apnea often doesn’t know that they are suffering from it unless they are experiencing serious sleep disruption.
It’s more likely that sleep apnea is discovered during a regular check-up, which is often infrequent, or perhaps by a partner who sees them experience the stop breathing, wake up, resume breathing, and then fall back asleep cycle that is indicative of this condition.
Screening procedures need to be improved, especially since diagnosing sleep apnea in women earlier is important to avoid long-term brain damage. A sleep study is usually ordered to determine the causes of nighttime issues, which is where Sleep Rite excels.
Scientists are working hard to come up with solutions to this problem, but if you or someone you know might be suffering from sleep apnea, it’s vital that you don’t waste any time getting them the help they might need.
Although sleep apnea has come to be known as more dangerous for women, it’s equally important that men are treated too – sleep apnea has also been linked to the onset of dementia, depression, and cardiovascular issues later in life. Sleep Rite is dedicated to healthier sleep for all!