In the unrealistic world of stereotypes, women are often pictured slumbering peacefully, while their men are engaged in a nightly ritual of comical, window-rattling snoring. Like many stereotypes, this one too is widely inaccurate. Women as well as men, can have serious problems with snoring. And as we’ve come to learn, the medical issues connected with snoring are far from comical. Sleep apnea is certainly no joke, and a recent study revealed just how serious the situation is for women.
A new study conducted in Sweden* revealed that nearly half of the female population may have some form of sleep apnea. A random sampling of 400 women were given sleep tests. Half of the subjects in this study showed evidence of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is defined as five episodes an hour when they stopped breathing for longer than 10 seconds. Severe sleep apnea can contain many more such episodes and increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and early death.
To think that half of the general population of women may have sleep apnea is startling enough, yet within this group, another sub-group emerged. This group was made up of those women who were obese or had hypertension. For those with such risk factors, a stunning 80 to 84 percent exhibited some form sleep apnea.
Even though mild sleep apnea may not pose the same risks of more severe apnea, it’s still is a situation should not be glossed over. Terry Young, a professor in the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin, said of mild sleep apnea: "We see that it doesn't go away and it gets worse". Such increased awareness of sleep apnea in women is proving to be highly beneficial. "The prejudice of excluding women (as potentially having sleep apnea) has been rampant for a long time. It's gotten better, however, and the (public health) gain in identifying women with sleep apnea is great," said Young.
Male or female, sleep apnea is a serious condition. Fortunately, for those who suffer from it, many new and exciting developments are being made that result in more user-friendly, safer equipment. Such developments lead to better compliance with CPAP therapy, and better compliance means the potential of negative health issues can disappear along with the window-rattling snores that herald them.
*European Respiratory Journal, August 16, 2012.