Sleep Apnea: Underrated Health Concern For Women's Well Being

The average sleep latency for females is greater, which means it takes them longer to fall asleep. In contrast to their male counterparts, it has been discovered that women generally experience poorer sleep quality.

Dr Sibasish Dey
New Update
Sleep Apnea, source: Office On Women's Health

Photo credit: Office On Women's Health

Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. On average, adults require a sleep duration of seven to nine hours per night.

A peaceful and uninterrupted night's sleep not only rejuvenates and energizes our bodies, but also serves as a protective barrier against numerous health issues. Unfortunately, due to hectic routines, inactive lifestyles, and irregular eating habits, achieving quality sleep is undoubtedly challenging for many individuals. Insufficient sleep or untreated sleep disorders can have detrimental effects on a person's overall health, happiness, and safety.

Women and Sleep

Sleeping well and receiving good quality sleep are equally important. How well a woman sleeps is influenced by various biological factors specific to women, such as the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause. Throughout the course of the month and over her lifetime, women encounter fluctuating levels of hormones like progesterone and estrogen. Significant sleeping issues can be caused by changes in hormone production at different times for women.

Numerous causes, such as life events, depression, ailments, poor sleep habits, medication use, and physical or hormonal changes, can interfere with and disturb a woman's sleep. Understanding the effects of these hormones, environmental circumstances, and lifestyle behaviours can help women achieve adequate rest.

The average sleep latency for females is greater, which means it takes them longer to fall asleep. In contrast to their male counterparts, it has been discovered that women generally experience poorer sleep quality. Women are additionally susceptible to micro awakenings which are also known as RERA (respiratory event-related arousal), which may induce sleep fragmentation.

Women and Sleep Disorders


Women, unlike men, sometimes experience long spans of increased upper airway resistance without a severe airway blockage. Despite not meeting the official definition of apnea, these events increase the labour of breathing, interrupt sleep, and ultimately lead to daily cognitive impairment and fatigue, morning headache, depression, and insomnia. 

Women with sleep-disordered breathing are more prone to have these symptoms. People who have PCOS may also have an association with obstructive sleep apnea. Untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. OSA is commonly thought to be twice as common in men, yet this gender difference diminishes after women reach menopause.

Women and Sleep Disorder Diagnosis

Women and men have anatomical variations and encounter different symptoms when it comes to sleep disorders. Since snoring is one of the main symptoms of sleep apnea, sleep apnea in women is commonly underdiagnosed. Women may go misdiagnosed with sleep apnea because they tend to experience more REM-related apnea and since they report more general symptoms including weariness, sleeplessness, and sleepiness.

Underdiagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea can have a detrimental effect on their health. A risk factor for hypertension and other cardiovascular illnesses is sleep apnea during REM sleep. Asthma, atrial fibrillation, cancer, chronic kidney disease, cognitive and behavioural disorders, heart and blood vessel diseases (heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke), metabolic disorders, and pregnancy complications are all more likely to be associated with sleep apnea.

Post-menopausal women also have a high prevalence of sleep apnea as they lose the protective effect of progesterone and their symptomatology might be similar to male gender.


Treatment options

The results of treatment may vary because there are evident disparities between the symptoms experienced by men and women. Due to the physiological variations in the respiratory tract, the amount of airway pressure necessary for men and women may differ.

Women may need specialised therapy for sleep apnea since they also experience fewer obstructive apnea or episodes where the upper airways collapse frequently. At ResMed, we have designed CPAP machines for women that are centred on a particular algorithm since it is critical for ensuring women's comfort and patients' compliance with their sleep apnea therapy.


The importance of early OSA diagnosis could not be overstated. Insufficient sleep can harm the capacity of the body to develop, heal from ailments, and function normally. It is critical to see a doctor and get yourself treated if you are exhibiting signs of sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.

Authored by Dr Sibasish Dey, Head, Medical Affairs, South Asia, ResMed


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