Until recently, sleep apnea — a disorder that's characterized by brief pauses in breathing during sleep — was thought to almost always occur in middle-aged men. But now researchers are finding that not only is the disorder common in women, but the risk for it may also increase with age.
At least 4% of men and 2% of women in the United States have sleep apnea, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and about 80% of people with the disorder don't know they have it. Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause inflammation that may trigger a build-up of plaque in the blood vessels, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
https://www.health.com/healthy-for-life/natural-remedies-for-anxiety/"If you look at studies from the 90s, there would be [about 7 or 8] males diagnosed with sleep apnea for every female," says Paul Macey, PhD, an associate professor in residence at the UCLA School of Nursing and sleep apnea researcher. "Now, in more recent studies, the typical ratio is three males for every one female. So, the gap has closed."
Part of the reason why women weren't being diagnosed with the condition, he says, was because they typically experienced different symptoms than men. "The 'classic' symptoms, which are common in men, are things like waking up occasionally and gasping for breath," he says. "But women tend to have difficulty thinking or anxiety."
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Older people may also be prone to developing sleep apnea, though their symptoms may be relatively mild, he explains. Experts aren't sure why this is, but one guess is that as we get older, our muscles become less toned and more likely to collapse; another, he says, is that we also become more prone to age-related conditions like obesity, which is linked to sleep apnea.
Regardless of your age, if you believe you have sleep apnea, you should talk to your doctor, who may decide to monitor your sleep overnight. Here are a few of the tell-tale signs that you have sleep apnea.
1. You snore
Frequent, loud snoring is one of the classic signs of sleep apnea — and while you might not notice this yourself, chances are, your partner will point out the bad habit. These snores are often punctuated with long periods of silence, followed by a gasp for breath.
That said, just because you snore doesn't mean you have sleep apnea.
2. You feel tired during the day
Men are more likely to feel sleepy during the day, says Macey, whereas women are more likely to experience a generalized kind of fatigue or inability to concentrate.
3. You feel anxious or even slightly depressed.
Women who have sleep apnea are more likely to experience changes in mood — like an increase in stress and anxiety — than men who have the condition. "Traditionally, because those symptoms didn't seem to be clearly linked to not breathing and sleeping properly, they weren't thought to be [related to] sleep apnea," says Macey.
4. You wake up in the middle of the night
Waking up frequently — particularly to urinate — is a common symptom of sleep apnea.
5. You wake up with a dry mouth and headache
Women are more likely to report feeling headaches when they wake up. Other signs include a dry mouth or sore throat.
If you suspect that you might have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
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