Sleep apnea affects women too

New York: Just as men too can have breast cancer, the masculine tag attached to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is also misleading as the disease is not rare among women.

OSA is a sleep disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep, hundreds of times a night.

The lack of awareness in the medical community about the impact of OSA on women is partly rooted in gender bias and partly due to sex differences of the symptoms, said a report in the Huffington Post.

Although OSA affects only half as many women as men, about 6 percent of women suffer from this condition, the report said citing a study.

Symptoms of OSA include loud snoring, episodes of gasping for air, excessive daytime sleepiness and waking up tired from sleep.

Women suffering from OSA are more likely to complain of insomnia, depression and fatigue rather than the textbook symptoms of the disorder.

A man's risk of contracting OSA increases linearly with his age, but a woman's risk is relatively low until menopause and then sharply increases to reach that of similarly aged men.

Two exceptions are pregnant women and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS is a reproductive hormonal disorder characterised by higher than normal testosterone levels and problems with fertility.

Among pregnant women, untreated OSA increases the risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced hypertension, the report said.

Previous studies have linked OSA to male patients perhaps because men tend to develop OSA earlier than women.