Women Are Frequently Misdiagnosed When It Comes To Sleep Apnea

It is generally accepted men often suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Why doesn’t the public hear more about women who are afflicted with this same medical condition? The fact is women aren’t as apt to be diagnosed with this condition.

In past sleep studies, the ratio of male versus female patients was definitely unbalanced toward men; however, other studies reveal the true ratio is close to two to three males suffering from OSA for every one female with this condition. This is obviously a medical condition both genders endure.

When first diagnosed this circumstance was described as one plaguing overweight or obese men who were middle-aged. As a consequence, females complaining of problems were not diagnosed with OSA because it didn’t occur to the physician it was the root of the woman’s complaints. Thankfully, that perception is changing although physicians still don’t have as high of an indicator of suspicion for sleep apnea in females.


Women do not exhibit identical symptoms as men when suffering from certain medical conditions, including a heart attack and OSA. Males with OSA are often witnessed by their bed partner snoring, which wakes up the other person, as well as experiencing pauses in their breathing. Women are considered “vigilant” snoozers and are more likely to be alarmed by their bedmate’s sleep patterns whereas men sleep sounder and aren’t as apt to observe sleep abnormalities in their female partner.

Women suffering from OSA may complain of mood instability, sleeplessness, weariness and headaches in the morning pointing to other medical conditions, leading to an inadvertent misdiagnosis. Sometimes the complaints from females are vague and include restless leg syndrome and depression, which are not exclusive to OSA.

Women may report awakening during the night and feeling as if they are choking or gasping for air. Experiencing a dry mouth in the morning as well as a sense of being besieged are indicators a woman is suffering from OSA.

When OSA isn’t suspected the female patient is not sent to a sleep clinic for auxiliary assessment. Additionally, even if it is suspected women are not as likely to agree to take part in a sleep study because they are frequently the caretakers of children and cannot afford to spend the night away from home. They would prefer being armed with a prescription, hoping it will cure their ills.


A sleep study is undergone to determine whether the patient is suffering from central sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea or complex sleep apnea, the latter a combination of both types of apnea. The most atypical kind of apnea is central sleep apnea, which is the result of the brain’s failure to send the correct signals to the breathing muscles. This leads to pauses in breathing and is often the result of other medical conditions or certain medications that are taken. The person with central sleep apnea doesn’t necessarily sore.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is diagnosed more frequently. This condition is the result of full or limited obstruction in an individual’s upper airway that occurs during sleep. When a blockage is present the chest and diaphragm muscles must put forth more effort into opening the stymied airway and this causes snoring and snorts. When there is an obstruction this limits the amount of oxygen getting to organs and leads to an irregular heart cadence.


If you are experiencing symptoms such as weariness, depression, restless leg syndrome and are aware you are awakening during the night and gasping for air, address this with your physician. It may be you are suffering from OSA.

Alterations in lifestyle may help, including losing weight, not smoking and reducing alcohol consumption. Some victims of OSA wear a CRAP or continuous positive airway pressure mask during the night, which amps up the air pressure in the individual’s throat so it does not cave in when the person breathes in.

Another option is an oral appliance worn in the mouth which prevents the crumpling of the soft tissues in the back of the throat and tongue, keeping the airway open. There are surgical options available as well.

Lesley writes widely about issues surrounding dental health. She feels that Dr. Chet Hawkins sets the gold standard for dentists in Texas.

Update on AJ – Lack of Sleep Issues

My son AJ has never really slept a full night his whole life, now as he just turned five and is heading off to school we are on a huge push to figure out what is going on with his sleep patterns being so off. This is something unique to AJ, the other two children don’t have the non-sleeping problem as bad as he does, although Baby K turned three and is having some mild issues that seem to be more from possible nightmares versus any medical cause.

After meeting with AJ’s counselor it has been agreed upon that AJ must start a sleep study. When discussing the lack of sleep with AJ’s Dad it became more aware to us that maybe, just maybe, AJ has something going on with his nasal passage. The kid won’t blow his nose, ever! My other two kids, ages 8 and 3 will blow their nose but no, not this kid. He sounds like he’s snoring when breathing, it’s awful. Finally it dawned on me that maybe AJ is suffering from sleep apnea, as this is something his sister suffered from due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids.

Thankfully the pediatrician has referred AJ over to the ENT he saw when he had his ear tubes placed years ago. AJ has been taking claritan for allergies as a way to see if we can’t get his nose cleared out too prior to visiting an ENT to have them say “well try this first”. No sense in wasting time.

It seems the Intuniv for AJ is working on his hyperactivity and focus. The kid is still full of spunk and active days but the Intuniv seems to be helping his mind slow down enough so he can focus and he has even been practicing writing his name, so far he can do about 2 letters in it but he knows how to read his name which is rockin’ good news!

So we are quickly working out this sleep issue to ensure AJ can get a good nights rest for his daily school activities.  He is showing so much progress with consistent parenting and his medication that I must say I am one proud Mama! Very proud of my sweet AJ!

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