Sleep apnea is also more common in women, although the disease has often been considered an affliction in men.
- Sleep apnea is becoming more common in both women and men, because obesity is becoming more common in both sexes in Finland, says Professor Tarja Saaresranta, Coordinating Director of the Sleep and Respiratory Center at Turku University Central Hospital.
Sleep apnea is a disease that causes shortness of breath during sleep. It typically manifests itself at night as snoring and during the day as symptoms of fatigue.
A major cause of sleep apnea is overweight, and the prevalence of the disease is already in the category of a common disease. According to international studies, at least 17 percent of middle-aged men and 9 percent of women are sleep apnea patients.
Read more: Tired sleep apnea afflicts hundreds of thousands of Finns, and the majority suffer unknowingly - these are the signs you recognize the disease
A woman's illness is easily hidden
Although men have more sleep apnea in middle age, Saaresranta points out that when women reach menopause, its incidence rises almost as much as that of men.
- Often the weight then increases slightly as the metabolism deteriorates.
Hormonal factors also play a role.
- Until menopause, female sex hormones protect women: luteinizing hormone stimulates respiration and estrogen supports its effect.
If you have night sweats, fatigue, and low mood, which menopause treatment doesn’t help with, it’s worth suspecting sleep apnea.
Often, a woman’s sleep apnea symptoms are slightly different, and therefore the disease is easily overlooked.
- Snoring is not so intense - not everyone has it at all - and there are fewer breath breaks.
Women are more concerned with long-term partial airway obstruction.
- They don’t go completely blocked, but breathing feels like the handbrake is on all night.
“Misty and tired”
Women also experience morning headaches that disappear within an hour of waking up without medication. Daytime fatigue manifests as inability and exhaustion.
- Many women describe that it is foggy and tired - but not such as to nap.
Vague symptoms often go to the menopausal peak.
- If you have night sweats, fatigue and low mood, which menopause treatment does not help with, you should suspect sleep apnea.
Read more: Sleep apnea often goes unnoticed - “It's easy to think that all middle-aged women are exhausted”
Identify the symptoms of sleep apnea
Symptoms of waking:
Falling asleep, nap
Source: Health Village
The phenomenon of recent years worries the professor
According to the professor, a worrying phenomenon is the increase in sleep apnea in younger age groups, both men and women.
- Until 5–10 years ago, we did not receive any young adults in their thirties in Tys, but now these referrals are becoming more and more common.
Sleep apnea patients are at increased risk for even the more severe forms of cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction.
Saaresranta emphasizes that lifestyle renovation is a cornerstone of care for patients of all ages.
- A lifestyle change to prevent obesity would really be needed. It can get rid of the symptoms of sleep apnea or completely prevent the disease from developing.
- Of course, not all patients are overweight, but lifestyle treatment still has a positive effect.
Read more: Can strike young people: 33-year-old radio presenter's constant morning fatigue was due to sleep apnea - identify 5 signs
Folk diseases reinforce each other
Saaresranta reminds that the treatment of sleep apnea is important because it is linked to other public diseases.
- Patients with sleep apnea are at increased risk for even the more serious forms of cardiovascular disease, ie myocardial and cerebral infarction.
National diseases have another mutually reinforcing effect.
- If you already have type 2 diabetes, chances are your risk of sleep apnea has also increased - and vice versa. Therefore, the treatment of the patient should always take into account the whole and not just one common disease.
This is how it is treated
Sleep apnea is studied when other possible causes of fatigue, such as high blood sugar, are ruled out.
The diagnosis is confirmed and the severity of sleep apnea is assessed by registration during sleep, which determines the number of breath breaks.
The posture treatment, which attaches a hard ball to the back of the nightgown, prevents you from sleeping on your back, which can reduce breathing breaks.
Throat obstruction during sleep can be prevented with a sleep apnea rail.
For more severe sleep apnea, CPAP device therapy can be used, in which the airways remain open due to overpressure.
Weight loss is an important treatment for overweight and exercise for all patients.
Sources: Terveyskylä, Tarja Saaresranta