Exploring Sleep Apnea Health Risks in Women

Exploring Sleep Apnea Health Risks in Women

Sleep apnea in women can lead to many serious health issues including stroke, heart attack, and early death. Plus, this sleep disorder can also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic conditions. And, if left untreated, sleep apnea can cause cognitive impairments, metabolic problems, and mood imbalances.

Yet, what’s most concerning is that women with sleep apnea have higher mortality rates compared to men. So, if you want to learn more, continue reading this article exploring sleep apnea health risks in women.

Sleep Apnea and the Changes in a Woman’s Life

In short, the changes women experience in their lives can, unfortunately, cause sleep apnea. For example, the two most important changes include pregnancy and menopause. These both can have a significant impact and remarkably increase the likelihood of developing this sleep disorder.

Sleep Apnea and Menopause

When women stop having their menstrual cycle, we say that they go through menopause. So, during this period, women experience lots of hormonal changes. Precisely speaking, they have lower levels of estrogen and progesterone. And, although these changes are normal and easy for most women, some develop health issues as a consequence of the altered hormone levels.

One study found that specific hormone level changes can contribute to the development of sleep apnea. The researchers found that only 0.5% of women who have started using hormone replacement therapy to fight against the negative effects of menopause developed sleep apnea. This result is far lower compared to women who didn’t get any therapy during their menopause. Namely, 2.7% of this group of women had sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea and Pregnancy

Similar to menopause, pregnancy can also cause hormonal imbalances, as well as weight gain. Both of these can increase the likelihood of developing sleep apnea.

According to sleep specialists, sleep is key for both the mother and the baby. However, many pregnant women develop sleep-disordered breathing, i.e. obstructive sleep apnea, which increases the risk for a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and preterm birth.

A study conducted on slightly over 100 pregnant women found that 10.5% of women develop sleep apnea by the first trimester. This number increases significantly by the third trimester of pregnancy. Indeed, 26.7 of women suffered from this sleep disorder during their last trimester of pregnancy.

The statistics show that between 5 and 10 percent of women develop sleep apnea during pregnancy and face a higher risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, enlarged heart, and cesarean delivery. This is why sleep-disordered breathing during pregnancy shouldn’t be overlooked. Hence, if you experience any sleep issues, and you are pregnant, ensure you seek professional help.

Sleep Apnea in Women and Health Risks

Even without the higher risk during menopause and pregnancy, women with sleep apnea are likely to develop some potential health issues, including:

  • Heart damage and impairments – Women with moderate or severe sleep apnea are at 30% higher risk of experiencing heart health issues than men.
  • Cognitive impairments and dementia – Research showed that women who suffer from sleep apnea are at risk for developing dementia or mild cognitive impairment.

That said, it’s key that physicians try to help their female patients with sleep apnea. They have to provide them with the right treatment, education, and support. And, of course, more research on sleep apnea in women is needed so that they get the right medical assistance.