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For Menopausal Women with Sleep Apnea, Research Holds Hope

Although men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women, women’s risk of sleep apnea increases with the onset of menopause.

Unfortunately, while many menopausal women notice worsening sleep quality, few women—or their general physicians—link the problem to sleep apnea. This is dangerous because sleep apnea can have serious impacts on women’s health, such as speeding functional decline. Recent research has focused on methods to detect and treat sleep apnea earlier in women going through menopause.

Sleep Quality, Sleep Apnea and Menopause

The hormonal changes of menopause are accompanied by a wide range of symptoms, including sleep disturbances. At least half of women in menopause experience sleep disturbances, including interruptions caused by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a potentially life-threatening condition in which breathing stops frequently during sleep.

Recent research conducted at Duzce University in Turkey examined the sleep quality of women during menopause, and assessed the use of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and polysomnography in diagnosing sleep-related disorders like OSA. The study of 67 women with menopause found that nearly 60 percent suffered from poor sleep quality, and of those approximately 65 percent were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.

The PSQI is a self-rated questionnaire used to evaluate sleep quality over a one-month period, and clinical studies have found it to be a reliable tool in diagnosing sleep disorders. Polysomnography is a form of sleep test that uses multiple parameters to evaluate sleep, including the monitoring of brain waves, heart rate and respiration. Based on the findings of their study, researchers believe that the early use of PSQI and polysomnography would provide more accurate diagnosis and timely treatment of OSA, the symptoms and health risks of which worsen over time.

Study Identifies New Screening Factor for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is thought to be greatly underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed as insomnia or depression among older women. Last year, researchers at Brown University identified what could be an important indicator of OSA in post-menopausal women.

In reviewing previous studies of sleep apnea in menopausal and post-menopausal women, researchers found a connection between other risk factors for OSA (including obesity, snoring and poor sleep quality) and nocturnal enuresis, or bedwetting. They adjusted for other circumstances that could contribute to nocturnal enuresis and found that the more traditional OSA factors a woman presented, the greater the chance that she also experienced bedwetting.

A woman with any two OSA risk factors was found twice as likely as a woman with none to urinate during sleep. A woman with any four OSA risk factors was four times as likely to experience nocturnal enuresis. The findings of the research present another screening consideration for sleep apnea, and something to discuss with your doctor or sleep dentist when discussing the possibility of sleep apnea.

Treating Sleep Apnea

There are multiple treatment options for sleep apnea, including oral appliances. These comfortable mouthpieces are designed to hold the jaw in its optimal resting position and help maintain an open airway during sleep.

For mild sleep apnea, or in combination with other sleep apnea treatments, lifestyle changes are recommended to improve the quality of sleep and reduce the frequency of apneas. For the most severe sleep apnea, CPAP remains the sleep apnea treatment of choice.

The accomplished San Diego dentists at Strober Dental have helped a number of patients treat sleep apnea and restore healthy sleep with the use of oral appliances. If you or a loved one experiences chronic snoring, frequent breathing interruptions during sleep, or regular daytime fatigue, please call us today (619) 299-5925 to schedule an appointment.