Sleep Apnea and Menopause
Sleep apnea awareness is growing all around us. Most people appreciate the need for a good amount of restful sleep. Yet, many people fall short of national recommendations or even their own personal expectations. Thankfully, more and more people are being tested and, when appropriate, treated for sleep-disordered breathing.
Is Sleep Apnea Stereotyped?
Sleep apnea is often thought of as a problem that mostly affects older, overweight men. Because of this, many women don’t get checked for the problem. As you’ve seen with Mary’s story in Chapter 11, young women are not immune from sleep-disordered breathing problems. Older women aren’t immune either.
Sleep Apnea Subtle Symptoms?
According to research, men are eight times more likely to be tested for sleep apnea than women. One of the main reasons is that the “classic” symptoms of sleep apnea, such as very loud snoring and excessive sleepiness during the day are more common in men. Women with sleep apnea often present with more subtle symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, and mood disorders.
Snoring might not be quite as loud and disruptive due to the shape and size of the female airway. Instead of being tested and treated for sleep apnea, they are given medications and left without help for the underlying problem. This is especially true for middle-aged women who are premenopausal or actually starting menopause.
Insomnia, waking up often, mood swings, hot flashes, memory loss, and feeling tired are all signs of “normal aging” that can make it hard for a woman to get a good night’s sleep.
Why do women develop sleep apnea later in life?
It turns out that, to some extent, women are protected from sleep apnea by female hormones—estrogen and progesterone. The hormones maintain the airway’s muscle tone and keep it from collapsing.
As the levels of these hormones begin to fall, the prevalence of sleep apnea in women rises. In fact, older women have the same risk of developing sleep apnea as their male counterparts.
Women who have hysterectomies and similar surgeries that affect their hormones have the same issues. They, too, are predisposed to sleep apnea.
Women who have sleep problems appear to be more prone to depressed mood and clinical depression.
The good news is that with proper treatment, sleep quality can be dramatically improved. In fact, there are several studies that found that when women were treated for a sleep disturbance, the treatment either enhanced their other treatments for depression or alleviated their depressive symptoms altogether.
But if sleep apnea is due to a hormonal imbalance in these women’s midlife years, then what about hormone replacement therapy?
That’s a good question, and a complex one.
According to a well known sleep doctor, “the decision to use HRT is a highly individualized one, a decision women should make in consultation with their physicians, and with consideration of their health and family medical history, age, where they are in the menopausal transition, the severity of their menopause symptoms and the effectiveness for them of non-hormonal therapies in relieving those symptoms.”
It turns out that the use of estrogen and progesterone for longer than 5 years is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Because hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is so complicated, a more conservative way to treat sleep apnea might be better. Oral appliance therapy (OAT), might be part of the solution. It might allow a lower dose of HST or negate its need at all. Certainly, it’s worth a try?
There are .o many things that are out of our control. Seeking help for sleep problems is a choice, as is choosing the treatment that is right for YOU!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the common symptoms of sleep apnea in women?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can affect both men and women, but women are at a higher risk of developing it than men due to certain risk factors. Common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea in women include snoring, frequent waking up during the night, feeling tired during the day, insomnia, headaches, and dry mouth. Due to the changes in hormones that come with menopause and sleep, the risk of sleep apnea is even higher for women who have gone through menopause. Women going through menopause are more likely to have a drop in oxygen levels while sleeping, which means they are more likely to develop this sleep disorder. Women who are past menopause and have these symptoms should think about taking sleep medicine, which can help lower the risk of sleep apnea.
What are the risks of sleep apnea for women?
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder, and it can be very dangerous for women. Postmenopausal women are particularly at risk, as hormonal changes during menopause and perimenopause can affect the quality of their sleep. Breathing problems during sleep, like obstructive sleep apnea, can cause tiredness, memory loss, and other health problems. Therefore, it's important for menopausal women to get better sleep by seeking medical advice and undergoing a sleep study if necessary. A sleep study is an assessment that measures breathing during sleep to diagnose any underlying issues, such as obstructive sleep apnea. Treatment options may include lifestyle changes such as weight loss, avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bedtime, or using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to help with breathing during sleep. By understanding the risks of sleep apnea for women during menopause and taking steps to improve their sleeping habits, they can ensure better overall health in the long term.
How can I determine if I have sleep apnea?
If you are a post-menopausal woman, it is important to be aware of how menopause can affect your sleep. Sleep-disordered breathing and obstructive sleep apnea are two types of sleep apnea that may increase in risk after menopause. If you want to find out if you have sleep apnea, you should see a sleep specialist. A sleep specialist might look at how you breathe at night and look for signs of sleep apnea. They may also request additional tests, such as overnight polysomnography, to rule out or confirm the diagnosis. It is important to get tested for sleep apnea, as it can cause serious health problems if left untreated. If you are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea, it is important to talk to a sleep specialist to make sure you get the right treatment and care.
What treatments are available for sleep apnea in women?
Sleep apnea in women is a serious sleep disorder that can affect their quality of life. Treatments are available to help women suffering from this condition. During menopause, hormone levels decrease, which can have an effect on the severity of sleep apnea. Menopause can make it hard to breathe while sleeping, which can lead to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It is important for women to get an accurate diagnosis if they suspect they have OSA, as treatments are available and vary depending on the individual's needs. Common treatments for this disorder include lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol or sleeping on your side, weight loss if needed, CPAP machines, and oral appliance therapy. Women should also be aware that other factors such as age, neck circumference, and family history can affect the risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea and should speak with their primary care physician about these risks.
Are there any home remedies for sleep apnea in women?
Because of their hormones and bodies, women are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Some things, like being overweight, being pregnant, or starting menopause, can make a woman more likely to get OSA. Additionally, women over the age of 50 tend to have a higher risk of sleep apnea than men in the same age group. While there is no one-size-fits-all home remedy for OSA in women, some lifestyle modifications may help improve symptoms. Sleep apnea in women can be less severe if they work out regularly, don't drink or smoke, and stay at a healthy weight. Insomnia caused by severe obstructive sleep apnea can also be helped by not drinking caffeine before bed and getting into a regular sleep schedule. However, if these measures do not work it’s important to consult your doctor about a potential sleep apnea diagnosis so that you can get proper treatment for your condition.
What are the long-term effects of sleep apnea in women?
Sleep apnea in women can have long-term effects, particularly for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition where the airway becomes blocked during sleep, which can cause insomnia symptoms and affect menopause. Menopause symptoms are likely to be exacerbated if an obstructive sleep apnea risk factor is present. Women in this age group are also more likely to suffer from OSA than other groups, as well as feel that their sleep is not restful or peaceful. Also, research shows that sleep apnea gets worse with age. This means that the risk of developing OSA goes up as a woman gets older. To lessen the long-term effects of sleep apnea in women, it's important to see a doctor if you feel like your sleep isn't restful or peaceful or if you have symptoms of OSA.