Menopause Symptoms and Sleep Apnea

Here’s information from Aeroflow Healthcare on sleep apnea. A recent study connects hot flashes and night sweats to this sleep disorder:

Some people assume the effects of aging are unavoidable, and accept them without doing proper research. While our bodies do slow down as we grow older, certain symptoms could be alerting us to another cause besides aging.

Two common menopause symptoms are hot flashes and night sweats. Fortunately, a recent study found hot flashes and night sweats may be linked to an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea in middle-aged woman. Why is this good news? People rarely know they suffer from sleep apnea unless their loved one realizes it. If you are struggling to sleep at night, talk to your doctor about the possibility of sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. While you sleep, soft tissue collapses and blocks the airway. Your body responds by slightly waking up so you can catch your breath. Central sleep apnea happens when your brain doesn’t send the signal to breath.

A person with sleep apnea never gets a deep, restful sleep and their organs and cells become oxygen depleted.

Sleep Apnea in Women

Sleep apnea is usually associated as a man’s disease because more men have been in sleep apnea studies. Women have different sleep apnea symptoms and women are commonly misdiagnosed as depression, hypertension, and hypochondria. Additionally, women tend to respond to sleep deprivation different from men.

Differences in Symptoms of Sleep Apnea by Gender

Women Men
Insomnia Snoring, gasping, snorting
Fatigue Apparent pauses in breathing
Mood Disorders
Morning Headaches

How women experience sleep apnea differently from men is about more than differences in physical anatomy. Duke University researchers agree that not getting enough rest has a more profound effect on women than it does for men. They found that there are a number of risks associated with lack of sleep in women that are practically nonexistent in men. Women are more likely to have insomnia, depression, and experience daytime fatigue than men.

Why are women more likely to be affected greater by lack of sleep? Estrogen and testosterone.

Testosterone has an anti-inflammatory effect helping to manage stress hormones for men. While women have some testosterone, they are much more dominant in estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are not known to have a stress managing effect on a woman’s body. Estrogen also has an anti-inflammatory effect — as women move into menopause, estrogen levels tend to drop, making falling asleep a lot more challenging.

It turns out female hormones are likely to play a role in women of that certain age group experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea.

Estrogen and serotonin (one hormone that transmits nerve signals) are directly related. When estrogen is higher in the body, so too is serotonin. When serotonin is lower, due to a drop in estrogen from menopause, the signal from your brain to muscles, including your tongue. When the tongue relaxes, the airway is blocked causing breathing problems. Here lies the complicated relationship between menopause and sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Treatment

The most common and effective treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP therapy. CPAP or “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure” involves a machine that increases the pressure in the airway to prevent this collapse and keeps the airway open. The CPAP reduces the number of apneas allowing you experience REM sleep. The CPAP machine delivers the pressurized air down a tube that attaches a mask. Many manufacturers have begun to adjust their mask styles to conform to the female face shape.

For people with mild to moderate sleep apnea, a mouthpiece can prove effective. The sleep apnea mouth piece slightly moves the jaw forward to keep the airway from collapsing.

Sleep Apnea Testing

For middle-aged woman, it can be difficult to determine what your symptoms are warning you about. Most people seek out sleep apnea testing because a loved one notices the stoppages in breathing. Make sure you speak with your doctor about sleep apnea. A 2013 medical study from UCLA found that women are less likely than men to be diagnosed with sleep apnea.

A sleep test is the most effective way to diagnose a sleep apnea. Most people pack their overnight bag and head to the sleep lab. A polysomnogram will detect a wide range of sleep disorders. A sleep test in a laboratory can be expensive (up to $3000), and many people have difficulty sleeping outside of their bed with so many sensors.

Fortunately, a study confirmed at-home sleep tests are just as effective to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. In-home sleep tests costs a fraction of a lab test (around $250), and you can sleep in the comfort of your own bed.

A home sleep test uses a finger probe to measure the blood oxygen level and pulse rate. The device can also measure the patient’s Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI), which is the number of times in one hour an individual experiences a pause in breathing for ten seconds or more. AHI is the primary unit of measurement to determine the severity of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea can be dangerous only if left untreated. The lack of sleep and oxygen can exacerbate or cause conditions like depression, weight gain, headaches, anxiety, heart disease and more. 25 Million U.S. adults have obstructive sleep apnea, and an estimated  9-21% f women suffer from OSA.


2 thoughts on “Menopause Symptoms and Sleep Apnea”

  1. I am beyond grateful that you wrote about this subject ! My husband has been telling me I gasp for breath at night . I am going to work on.being tested ! He got tested in the lab this summer and had severe sleep apnea and now wears a c pap . It has changed his life . For myself , coming off the estrogen patch three weeks ago I now have warm flashes at night , but with your article , I am thinking long and hard about being tested myself , thank you !

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