Sleep apnea is a common problem that many people suffer from. Sleephealth.org estimates that over 22 million Americans struggle with the effects of sleep apnea, although roughly 80% of them are probably undiagnosed. That is close to the entire population of the state of New York. While this sleep disorder is mostly associated with men over the age of 40, it’s incredibly prevalent in women as well. But why are women often left undiagnosed more than men?
What is Sleep Apnea?
“Apnea” quite literally means “without breath” in Greek. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep apnea is the “involuntary cessation of breathing” while someone is asleep. Some people quit breathing as many as 100 times a night, and sometimes for a minute or more. If left untreated, there are many problems that it can cause for the person suffering from sleep apnea. Doctors in Idaho Falls who treat sleep apnea and its symptoms report patients having problems with obesity, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. People with untreated sleep apnea are also at a higher risk for car and job related accidents, diabetes and even stroke.
The three types of sleep apnea are obstructive, central and mixed. The most common is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. OSA is caused by a blockage in a person’s airway. This is usually from the soft tissues near the back of the throat that close or stick together during sleep. With central sleep apnea, it has nothing to do with a blockage. The brain forgets to send the signals to the lungs to take a breath. Mixed sleep apnea is as it sounds it would be, a mixture of the other two types of sleep apnea.
All three types of sleep apnea are treatable, and can easily be diagnosed through a sleep specialist. A doctor will set up a sleep study either at home, or in a sleep study center. Some home sleep studies are not as accurate at detecting certain types of sleep apnea. Clinics such as Comfort Sleep Solutions in Idaho Falls can evaluate sleep apnea symptoms and decide what sleep study will work best for each patient.
How Sleep Apnea Symptoms Differ Between Men and Women
When a person thinks of sleep apnea, they first think of snoring, gasping breaths and sleepiness. But in women the symptoms often present themselves a little differently. This is one of the main reasons that many women go undiagnosed, especially compared to men. Another reason is wives are much more likely to complain about their husbands snoring than the other way around. Comfort Sleep Solutions has seen many different symptoms of sleep apnea in Idaho Falls patients over the years.
Typical sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Loud snoring
- Delayed breathing
- Dry mouth
Women all over the United States usually do not show these sleep apnea symptoms, and Idaho Falls is no exception. Women and men are anatomically and hormonally different. This means that figuring out sleep problems in women can be hard. There are many other signs that women show that men do not. This is why sleep apnea in women is often left undiagnosed or mistreated. Many of these sleep apnea symptoms are misdiagnosed in Idaho Falls women. This is mostly because they can be easily connected to other health problems or conditions. General family doctors try to look at the body as a whole, when it could be something so simple. When you see the symptoms, it’s easy to see why.
Sleep apnea symptoms that are common in women and frequently misdiagnosed:
- Mood swings
- Shortage of energy
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Problems with concentration or memory
- Night sweats
- Nighttime heartburn
- High blood pressure
- Difficulty losing weight
- Frequently waking up to urinate
Common diseases that sleep apnea is misdiagnosed as in women:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Chronic Depression
It’s easy to see why many doctors would attribute any of these symptoms to a different problem. Having to pee often through the night could be a bladder infection. Depression and anxiety have a large list of causes. And women being tired? What’s new? A recent study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed that women are generally more tired than men. While men suffer more from the classic sleep apnea symptoms in Idaho Falls, women are much more likely to have sleep disorders. These sleep disorders include Insomnia and Restless Leg Syndrome. But why are women more likely?
A big part of it is hormones. Studies have shown that estrogen and progesterone are two hormones that play an important role on getting good sleep. But these hormones also play a big role in a female’s reproductive system. The levels go up and down throughout the month because of the menstrual cycle. The same could be said for menopause and pregnancy. Women are two to three times more likely to suffer from sleep apnea during menopause. The extra fluid and weight a woman takes on during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy also make her more likely to develop sleep apnea as well. A woman’s body is constantly going through a state of change for her entire lifetime. It isn’t uncommon for women in Idaho Falls to start showing symptoms of sleep apnea around any of these stages in her life.
Where Do Women Go in Idaho Falls to Get Checked for Sleep Apnea Symptoms?
A good place for women to start is to speak with their general family doctor. A lot of women go untreated for sleep apnea symptoms in Idaho Falls because the symptoms often go unmentioned. Any general practitioner can refer patients to a sleep specialist for testing. Once they have an appointment with a sleep specialty center, the doctors there can determine what type of sleep study will be best for the patient. Depending on what type of sleep apnea a patient has, a sleep study will be scheduled in the patient’s home or in the office. This is because the home sleep studies aren’t as great at detecting certain types of sleep apnea.
Treatment for sleep apnea will be chosen depending on what type, and how severe the patient’s condition is. Some treatment is as simple as an oral appliance. Most types of sleep apnea can be treated with a breathing machine called a continuous positive airway pressure machine, or a CPAP. The type of mask and air pressure will be set by the sleep specialist. The masks can be changed to make sure that the most comfortable fit is provided. A lot of patients find it hard to sleep with a CPAP mask at first, but do well after finding the right one.
More intensive treatment can include surgery if the person suffering with sleep apnea has an obstruction or severe apnea problem. Tissue removal, tissue shrinkage, tonsil and adenoid removal are very common surgeries if a patient has to go this route. More serious treatments can include jaw re-positioning, nerve stimulation, and even a tracheotomy if the sleep apnea is severe enough. Men and women should speak with their doctors as soon as they suspect any kind of problem with their sleep.