Sleep Apnea Knows No Gender
Most people believe snoring and obstructive sleep apnea are men’s problems. Part of this is simple fact – experts believe that men are twice as likely to present with the disorder as women. But another reason is that women become susceptible to sleep apnea under somewhat different circumstances from men.
As it turns out, although men are increasingly predisposed to apnea as they get older, women tend to exhibit more variable risk factors:
Another difference among men and women is the change in the OSA risk throughout the lifespan. While a man’s risk increases linearly as he ages, a woman’s risk is relatively low until menopause and then sharply increases to reach that of similarly aged men.
Two exceptions are pregnant women, especially those who are obese before conception, and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a reproductive hormonal disorder characterized by higher than normal testosterone levels and problems with fertility. Among pregnant women, untreated OSA increases the risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced hypertension.
This last part is especially important: pregnant women have enough trouble sleeping well without gasping for breath as well, and the effects can be harmful.
Although surgical options are often highly effective against obstructive sleep apnea, most of these procedures wouldn’t be indicated during pregnancy unless the condition were dire.