New research from Umeå and Uppsala universities has found high rates of sleep apnea in women, despite the condition usually being regarded as a disorder predominantly of males.
The study, published online ahead of print August 16 in the European Respiratory Journal, also suggested that women with hypertension and/or obesity were more likely to experience sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which there are frequent pauses in breathing during sleep. The incidence of the condition increases with age and it is considered more prevalent in men than in women. In this new study, researchers from Uppsala and Umeå University in Sweden aimed to investigate the frequency and risk factors of sleep apnea in women.
The study analysed 400 women from a random sample of 10,000 women aged 20-70 years. The participants answered a questionnaire and underwent a sleep examination.
The results found that obstructive sleep apnea was present in 50% of women aged 20-70 years. The researchers also found links between age, obesity and hypertension: 80% of women with hypertension and 84% of obese women suffered from sleep apnea.
Additionally, severe sleep apnea was present in 31% of obese women aged 55-70 years old.
Lead author Dr Karl Franklin said: "We were very surprised to find such a high occurrence of sleep apnea in women, as it is traditionally thought of as a male disorder. These findings suggest that clinicians should be particularly aware of the association between sleep apnea and obesity and hypertension, in order to identify patients who could also be suffering from the sleeping disorder."
- K. A. Franklin, C. Sahlin, H. Stenlund, E. Lindberg. Sleep apnoea is a common occurrence in females. European Respiratory Journal, 2012; DOI: 10.1183/09031936.00212711