Sleep apnea is not just a condition that affects men; it affects people of all ages, shapes and sizes, including women. Four percent of middle-aged men and two percent of middle-aged women experience sleep apnea, and the rate of sleep apnea increases significantly in women after menopause.

“Classic” symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Snoring
  • Witnessed gasping, pauses in breathing
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness

Although these symptoms occur in women, sometimes they may be more vague or suggestive of other illnesses:

  • Insomnia or frequent nighttime awakenings
  • Waking up in a sweat or with heart palpitations
  • Nightmares
  • Feeling unrefreshed in the morning
  • Changes in mood, such as increased feelings of anxiety, depression or irritability

In this situation, a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea may be overlooked. Instead, emphasis is often placed on treating underlying thyroid disease, diabetes, depression or anxiety. It is important for women to talk with their health care providers about any concerns they have with sleep or daytime sleepiness.