Let’s Talk About Gender: Sleep Apnea in Male and Female

Sleep apnea is a repetitive, intermittent cessation of air flow at the nose and mouth while sleeping. In layman’s term, it is a sleep disorder wherein your breathing repeatedly starts and stops. It can affect anyone, even children, but statistics have indicated that men are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnea than women.

There are three types of sleep apnea:
  1. Obstructive sleep apnea – the most common type that occurs when throat muscles relax.
  2. Central sleep apnea – occurs when the brain does not send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
  3. Complex apnea – also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea which occurs when someone has both obstructive and central sleep apneas.
CleanFlash CPAP BiPAP Cleaner Sanitizer  - Sleep Apnea in Male and Female

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

A 2017 study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that while the symptoms of sleep apnea start to manifest around the same age in both male and female, the impact of these on their lives were seen to be different.

Signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas could overlap and sometimes make it difficult for you to determine which type you have so it’s always best to consult with a doctor. Some of the common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Waking up with a dry mouth
  • Morning headaches
  • Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness or hypersomnia
  • Episodes in which you stop breathing in sleep
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty paying attention while awake

Snoring is the common symptom of sleep apnea in men, but unlike the occasional bout of snoring, sleep apnea-related snoring is persistent, loud and may be punctuated by gasping, snorting, wheezing or other sounds that may indicate that the person is finding it hard to breathe in sleep. Usually these signs and symptoms will be relayed through an account of another person, often by a spouse or a roommate.

Sleep Apnea in Men vs. Women

A recent study by the UCLA School of Nursing suggests that sleep apnea symptoms in women are different than those in men. The study also suggests that because of the conventional wisdom that men are more susceptible, sleep apnea in women may be less diagnosed in men.

Women with obstructive sleep apnea may appear to be healthy ­­­— having for instance, normal resting blood pressure — and their symptoms also tend to be subtler, which often means their sleep problem is missed and they get diagnosed with other conditions,” wrote Laura Perry for the UCLA Newsroom.

Women tend to have more complaints of chronic fatigue or tiredness and insomnia,” adds Nancy A. Collop, MD, medical director at Johns Hopkins Hospital Sleep Disorders Center. “Since these aren’t the classic symptoms of sleep apnea, these symptoms are often put off to being something else.”

Another study conducted in Queensland, Australia with 744 participants shows that women are more likely to feel the effects of sleep apnea in how it causes daytime sleepiness and resultant fatigue. In addition, lack of sleep in women is also more likely to manifest in the form of deficits in concentration and memory.

Certain factors also contribute in the development of sleep apnea like being overweight, having a narrowed airway and a family history of the condition. Smokers are also three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea because smoking can increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.

What are Your Treatment Options?

CPAP is the leading therapy for sleep apnea. Through this treatment, patients wear a face or nasal mask while sleeping. The mask, which is connected to a pump, provides a positive flow of air into the nasal passages to keep the airway open.  Majority of patients who use CPAP find immediate relief from their sleep apnea symptoms.

CPAP therapy also offers benefits for bed partners and roommates. According to one study, many bed partners are driven away from the bedroom due to the harsh sounds of snoring, but undergoing CPAP silences these noises. Research further suggests that male snoring is more likely to drive their partners out of bed rather than female snoring.

Another sleep apnea treatment is the Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure or BiPAP. Much like how CPAP works, a BiPAP machine pressurizes the air to a higher level than the air in a room, aiding the patient to take in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide while sleeping or experiencing symptoms while awake.

Both CPAP and BiPAP machines require regular cleaning to prevent complications that you may find from inhaling dirt, germs, bacteria and other particles. One of the best ways to clean your CPAP or BiPAP machine is by using a high-quality CPAP cleaner.

Does Sleep Apnea Treatment Vary per Gender?

To date, there have been no extensive studies on the different responses to various sleep apnea treatments per gender. Clinical trials suggest that the amount of airway pressure required for men and women for effective continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy may differ. Primarily, due to physiological differences in the respiratory tract, men require more airway pressure than women to keep their airway open throughout the night.

When to Consult a Doctor

Sleep apnea is highly treatable, yet only about 20% of patients with moderate to severe case of the sleep disorder ever do anything about it. It could be potentially serious especially if left untreated. In fact, women are actually less often diagnosed with sleep apnea, mainly because it can be mistaken for other conditions.

Leaving obstructive undiagnosed or a misdiagnosis can cause major health risks for women such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension and depression, while further health risks involve hypothyroidism, cognitive impairment and dementia.

Regardless of gender, it’s essential that one see a doctor to discuss any issues one is having related to sleep apnea.

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea and are using a CPAP or BiPAP equipment, cleaning it with our CPAP cleaner before sleep can help you avoid greater health risks in the future. If you have questions about our CPAP machine cleaner, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.






Mayo Clinic


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