Snoring, sleep apnoea, and sleep loss in women

Snoring, and sleep apnoea in particular, were both generally considered to be conditions predominantly affecting men but we now know this not to be the case, with the ration of men to women estimated at approximately 2:1. Since sleep apnoea is mainly a problem that is self-reported , men were more likely to seek help for this and heavy snoring, even if prompted to do so by their partner.

Approximately 50% of women snorers are believed not to report their symptoms to their GP, mostly due to being embarrassed. Some studies show that as many as 90% of more severe cases go undiagnosed in women, and women have a tendency not to report apnoea events, choking or restless sleep, whereas most men did report these matters.

Treatment however can be both simple and inexpensive and it can prevent major health problems in later life. Sufferers are often put off by the thought that the treatment most used historically was CPAP, where air is forced via a mask into the lungs throughout the whole night. More recent thinking is to recommend the use of an oral appliance for mild and moderate cases of sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnea in womenComparison showing Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP and an Oral Appliance (MAD)

The contrast is shown in the photography above where one patient is using a mask

for CPAP and the other an oral appliance – just distinguishable in the inset, with the result that this method is now much more appealing to those who suffer – both men and women. This treatment, although not quite so effective, works very well.

Snoring often results in a disturbed night and it is very common to hear a comment such as – “I barely slept last night. I just couldn’t get comfortable” – or – “I tried to fall asleep, but my mind kept racing.”

Sleep, and the lack of it, is a common talking point, and disturbed sleep generally is much more common in women than men. A woman’s experience of sleep loss is different and sometimes feminine factors are involved that may cause and maintain sleep difficulties. However, focusing on quality sleep is important to help prevent many aspects of both physical and mental health.

Disruption of sleep leads not only to daytime sleepiness, but memory lapses, weight gain, headaches, irritability and poor work performance overall. It can also contribute to psychological disorders such as depression and for the more severe cases, there’s an increased risk of high blood pressure, premature heart disease and stroke.

It’s not an area to neglect.

The best solution is an approach on several fronts including exercise, reduced alcohol consumption, healthy eating and treatment for the sleep apnoea or heavy snoring which will stop the snoring immediately whilst other things take time.

There are several treatment solutions including surgery, CPAP (Continuous Positive Airways Pressure) a full-face mask which works by stopping the airways from collapsing, or a mandibular advancement device, like a sports mouth-guard, that holds the lower jaw slightly forward, making more space to breathe.

Many women now opt for the mouthpiece. It’s easy to wear, quite comfortable, non-claustrophobic unlike the mask, and doesn’t create dryness of the mouth, which CPAP has a tendency to do. Mouthpieces are easily acquired as they are non-prescription, but some are NHS Approved, which is preferable, and they will bring you immediate results.

SleepPro now have a special product in their range dedicated to women only – the only oral appliance technology company to do so.

By John Redfern