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How Sleep Disorders Affect Men and Women Differently
It’s no surprise that men and women are different. But what you might not know is that women are affected by sleep disorders differently than men. And because of that, sleep disorders like snoring and sleep apnoea are often misdiagnosed in women.
How Do Men And Women Differ?
Actually, men are more likely to have snoring or sleep apnoea than women. After all, when we think of snoring and sleep apnoea, we usually think of men as the snorers. And that's because men may snore more loudly or sleep more heavily than women. They usually don’t notice that their partner is snoring or having apnoeic events.
Not only that, but women are also less likely to be diagnosed with snoring or sleep apnoea. Why? Because it affects them differently. Rather than the classic symptoms of snoring such as pauses in breathing during the night and excessive sleepiness during the day. Women’s symptoms are actually different.
A new research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggests that men and women are affected differently by sleep disorders. The results have shown that women are more likely to have more severe symptoms of depression, trouble sleeping at night, and excessive daytime sleepiness.
It also shows that women can experience a higher degree of difficulty in concentrating and remembering things due to sleepiness or tiredness. In contrast, male snoring was more likely than female snoring. Which often lead to forcing bed partners to sleep in different rooms.
Sleep doctors, Boccabella and Malouf, also conducted a retrospective clinical audit from a total number of 744 patients. The 744 patients received sleep-related health care from 7 different private general practices.
They completed a variety of sleep-related questionnaires, including the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), the Snoring Severity Scale (SSS), and the Functional Outcomes of Sleep Questionnaire 10.
According to Boccabella and Malouf, understanding how women’s symptoms differ from men’s can help medical professionals manage sleep disorders more holistically.
How To Avoid Misdiagnosis?
When you think that you only have 15 minutes or less with your doctor, you might end up being misdiagnosed as something else. The common stereotype of a snoring or sleep apnoea sufferer is usually a middle-aged overweight man who snores really loudly and is tired during the day. Not a woman suffering from depression, anxiety or who has trouble concentrating.
In fact, there are so many symptoms that women with snoring or sleep apnoea encounter. And those symptoms often lead to the misdiagnosis of their sleeping problem.
These symptoms include:
- Trouble sleeping at night
- Difficulty concentrating
- Daytime sleepiness
- History of snoring
- A dry mouth on awakening
- A sense of feeling overwhelmed.
Because many of these symptoms relate to other health problems, it’s not surprising that general practitioners often misdiagnose snoring and sleep apnoea in women as:
- Cardiac or pulmonary illnesses
- Fatigue from working too much or being the primary carer of children or the elderly
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Menopausal changes.
In fact, menopausal changes may be the reason for your snoring or sleep apnoea.
As you transition through menopause, your risk of suffering from snoring and sleep apnoea increases. And if you’re postmenopausal you're up to three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnoea than premenopausal women.
That’s because your body’s motivation to breathe varies in phase with your menstrual cycle. In fact, the hormones oestrogen and progesterone have a lot to do with whether or not you snore. Any changes to these hormones can make your usual strong upper airways more flexible. And you can go from being a sound sleeper to a snoring or sleep apnoea sufferer. Which gives us all the more reason to treat menopause as a symptom of snoring and sleep apnoea. Not the other way around.
What Can You Do?
The first thing that you need to do is identify your sleeping disorder. Identifying any sleep disorder, especially snoring and sleep apnoea is very important. Sleep apnoea can cause many health problems including increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, depression, mental illness and even death.
If you suffer from any of the symptoms above or you think you may have been misdiagnosed it’s worth having a sleep study to find out if the cause is related to your sleep health.
- Allegra Boccabella, John Malouf. How Do Sleep-Related Health Problems Affect Functional Status According to Sex? Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2017; 13 (05): 685.