Obstructive sleep apnea affects nearly 20 million American adults. That is 20+ million Americans who stop breathing for more than 10 seconds while sleeping due to the muscles in the throat contracting, so the airway is blocked.
Sleep apnea does not discriminate between males and females, although they do not experience it quite the same way.
Battle of the Sexes
Why does sleep apnea affect men and women differently?
It starts with sleep itself, which varies based on gender. Science confirms that women need more sleep and more restful sleep than men do and tend to be early to bed and early to rise.
Also, women are at a higher risk for insomnia and depression than men, which also affects the amount and quality of sleep.
Women are not diagnosed with sleep apnea as often as men are, but the women who are diagnosed experience exaggerated effects. This is especially true in the areas of the brain that we use most throughout the day – the processing of information, the ability to make decisions, and overall mood stability.
Women also show symptoms differently than men.
While men physically snore loudly, startle awake, and gasp, women are more likely to just be less restful overall and experience the latent side effects like daytime fatigue and depression.
There are a few symptoms that men and women share, however. No matter the gender, snoring comes with the territory in most cases, along with shortness of breath.
Another common side effect is a toll on mental health, mainly the introduction of anxiety and depression which can be caused from lack of oxygen and rest to the brain.
What Women Want
Another difference between women and men when it comes to sleep apnea is the way they feel about treatment. Men are far less likely to care about their appearance than women (most of the time), and thus take less of an issue with the "ever-fashionable" CPAP machine and its breathing instruments. In case you aren't familiar, a CPAP machine (more formally, the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine), is a pump that hooks up to a person's airways and keeps them open, so breathing does not stop.
Why should women have to suffer with the plain-Jane tubes, masks, and nose pillows that most CPAP machines come with? Imagine lying in bed at night with your significant other, and they look over at you lovingly only to see an alien with plastic hoses coming out of its face. Sure, they don't really think this when they see you, but that's how it feels for many women.
The good news is, there are more attractive, comfortable, and less cumbersome options available.
Because women experience sleep apnea differently than men, there is a CPAP designed especially for women. Not only is this CPAP programmed to suit a woman's specific needs, cellular-enabled, and much nicer to look at, but the accessories are a vast improvement from the traditional CPAP. Masks, cannulas, and cushions have a streamlined look in a fun two-toned purple and gray color scheme. The straps are thinner than ever, the masks are much more comfortable, and the compact design allows for less uncomfortable pressure.
Not to mention, you no longer have to worry about looking like an alien, unless that alien is incredibly chic.
What to Watch for
Women who are aging are at significant risk for sleep apnea and accompanying health conditions, as being over the age of 50 and/or menopausal increases risk. Obesity is another common denominator for people, both men, and women, who are diagnosed with sleep apnea, and this is at any age. High blood pressure is another factor that can lead to restricted airways, and this is for both men and women as well.
Benefits of Treatment
Some women may be hesitant about treatment for sleep apnea due to the equipment they have seen people traditionally use with their CPAP. Most women may not even realize what they lack due to sleep disturbance, but improved sleep can clear the mind, eliminate fogginess, increase energy, improve concentration, have positive effects on memory, improve mental health, and lower blood pressure.
Women shouldn't have to worry about feeling unattractive at bedtime, they should worry about getting restful sleep and improving their overall health and happiness. With many options available for female-based CPAP machines, and stylish options for accessories, there is no need to worry about appearances any longer.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, or these four signs that may surprise you, schedule an appointment to see your doctor to get help today.
There is no reason you can't feel healthier, and chic, at the same time.