Sleep apnea affects people of all shapes and sizes, but did you know that the effects of sleep apnea are worse for women than men?
According to a recent study conducted by UCLA School of Nursing, there are some considerable differences between the impacts of the condition on men and women — in fact, while men are generally more likely to have sleep apnea, women with the condition have a greater degree of brain injury.
Why is this the case? And, why are women so often misdiagnosed?
What are the different symptoms for men and women?
Women’s symptoms are often different to men’s in that the snoring usually tends to be much lighter and many of the breathing problems during sleep are much subtler. In many cases, women also experience apnea events that are shorter and less frequent than men.
While some common symptoms of the condition include:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Worsening depression
Some women often experience the kinds of symptoms that are easily misdiagnosed — this includes:
- Mood disturbances
- Lack of energy
- Severe fatigue
Why is the impact of the condition worse for women?
Besides the fact that women are often misdiagnosed, the study found that there is a connection between sleep apnea and thinning of the brain’s cerebral cortex. The condition causes distinct changes in brain structures and cognitive symptoms, which are different for men and women. The frontal lobe (the area of the brain that controls cognitive skills and motor function), for example, appears to be thinner in women with the condition than in men. This finding, according to the researchers, could provide clues as to why women tend to experience problems with memory and certain other mental processes.
So, what’s the solution?
Early detection and treatment are key in managing the condition and avoiding unpleasant complications. Besides these new findings concerning brain function, sleep apnea can also lead to a range of other serious health problems if it is left untreated. These include hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Thanks to modern research and new information, there has been a shift in the dental industry toward airway and sleep apnea treatments. We now understand that there is an important link between oral function and airway conditions, and for this reason, we offer a number of airway treatments.
Treatment options include:
- Behavior modification
In some cases, certain lifestyle and behavior changes can provide relief from sleep apnea. These include weight loss, sleep position training, reduced intake of alcohol and smoking cessation.
- Oral appliance therapy
Oral appliances are effective in many cases of sleep apnea. We offer mandibular advancement devices and tongue retained devices, but it is important to note that these are not suitable for every case. For this reason, we will advise you of the best treatment for your needs after a thorough assessment.
- Continuous positive air pressure (CPAP)
One of the most common treatment options for sleep apnea, CPAP involves the use of a specially designed mask that is strapped to the head at bedtime. The mask completely covers the nose and mouth and is connected to a machine with an air hose. The mask works by delivering airflow and keeping the airways open during the night.
Surgery generally involves the removal of excess tissue from the back of the throat to widen the airway, which helps to relieve snoring. Some other options include removal of the tonsils or adenoids, nasal surgery, and maxillomandibular advancement.