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How Sleep Apnea Affects Men, Women and Children

How Sleep Apnea Affects Men, Women and Children

Are you getting enough sleep at night? If you answered no to that question, you're not alone. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one third of American adults don't get enough sleep on a regular basis. The CDC reports that an estimated 50-70 million U.S. adults have a sleep or wakefulness disorder, and the organization has even gone so far as to label insufficient sleep a public health problem.

Sleep insufficiency is more than just feeling tired in the morning. It's linked with dangerous occurrences such as car accidents, industrial disasters and occupational errors, plus it increases the likelihood of health problems like diabetes, depression and obesity.

Addressing this widespread public health problem is critical to the health and well-being of millions of men, women and children in America. For this reason the National Sleep Foundation will be celebrating its annual Sleep Awareness Week on April 23rd, 2017 - April 29th, 2017.

In honor of healthy sleep, we want to take this opportunity to spread knowledge and awareness of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that's close to our heart here at SoClean. Follow along in social media using #SleepBetterFeelBetter.

Understanding Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea occurs when an individual's breathing is interrupted during sleep. This can happen up to hundreds of times per night, and for more than a minute or longer each time. There are three different types of sleep apnea, but obstructive sleep apnea is the most common.

  • Sleep apnea affects more than 22 million Americans
  • As many as 80% of people with obstructive sleep apnea are undiagnosed
  • Common symptoms of sleep apnea include loud and/or chronic snoring, choking or pauses in breath during sleep, daytime sleepiness, awakening with a dry mouth, headaches and irritability
  • If left untreated, sleep apnea can increase the risk of potentially severe health problems, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and depression.

The good news is that once diagnosed, sleep apnea is treatable. 

Sleep Apnea and Men

Traditionally, sleep apnea has been viewed by those in the medical community as a “men's disorder,” with research showing that men are about twice as likely as women to have obstructive sleep apnea. There are signs of increasing prevalence among women, but we'll get to that in the next section.

Other notable risk factors include being overweight, having a thick neck circumference and being over the age of 40.

It's essential for men—particularly men to whom these risk factors apply—to be on the lookout for symptoms of sleep apnea. Since it's impossible for anyone to know what's going on while they're sleeping, a partner can be helpful in determining whether you exhibit any of the nighttime symptoms.

Sleep Apnea and Women

Women face unique challenges when it comes to being diagnosed with sleep apnea. Data suggests that women are eight times less likely to be diagnosed than men, due in part to misconceptions about it and to it being more difficult to diagnose among women.

In an interview with the National Sleep Foundation, Dr. Grace W. Pien of Johns Hopkins University notes that while men tend to exhibit the telltale symptoms of snoring, breathing pauses at night and excessive sleepiness, women are more likely to present non-specific symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, headaches and mood disturbances. Women are also less likely than men to report loud, chronic snoring—even if this is something they experience. As a result, women are often misdiagnosed with issues such as anemia, depression, menopausal changes or fibromyalgia.

While it's commonly accepted that men are twice as likely as women to have sleep apnea, one recent study suggests that frequency among women may be higher than previously believed, with 50% of participating women age 20-70 found to have some degree of sleep apnea.

Fortunately, the medical community is becoming more and more aware of these realities, but it's still important for women who believe they might have sleep apnea to be persistent with doctors about arranging a sleep study. That way they can obtain an accurate diagnosis and begin undergoing life-changing treatment if necessary.

Sleep Apnea and Children

According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 20% of children snore occasionally, and usually it's no reason for concern. However, if a child also shows signs of pausing while breathing, tossing and turning, chronic mouth breathing, bed-wetting or night sweats, he or she may suffer from sleep apnea.

Up to 4% of children have sleep apnea, and it can begin as early as two years old. Unfortunately, sleep apnea often goes undetected in children. In fact, experts say that it's commonly misdiagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“Children with sleep apnea may complain of being tired during the day and, at the same time, exhibit hyperactive behavior or act impulsively,” explains Dr. Lana B. Patitucci of the Pennsylvania Snoring and Sleep Institute.

When it comes to treating pediatric sleep apnea, doctors typically take a different approach than with adults. The most common treatment is surgical removal of the adenoids and tonsils – a procedure known as an adentonsillectomy. This opens up the throat to aid airflow, successfully eliminating symptoms of sleep apnea 70% to 90% of the time.

Getting a Good Night's Sleep

Committing yourself to better sleep can have a positive impact on many different aspects of your everyday life—from memory and mood to overall health and productivity.

This Sleep Awareness Month, pledge to pay more attention to your sleep health. And if you suspect that you, your loved one or your child might have sleep apnea or any other sleep disorder, please seek the advice of a professional to get the proper treatment.