Half of women may suffer from apnea

Half of women may suffer from apnea

NEW YORK - Reuters
Half of women may suffer from apnea

Half of the 400 women given sleep tests turned out to have sleep apnea.

Fully half of the 400 women given overnight sleep tests in a new study turned out to have mild-to-severe sleep apnea.

In the random population sample of adult women who answered a questionnaire and were monitored while sleeping, half experienced at least five episodes an hour when they stopped breathing for longer than 10 seconds, the minimum definition of sleep apnea.

Among women with hypertension or who were obese - two risk factors for sleep apnea - the numbers were even higher, reaching 80 to 84 percent of women.

Many of the women in the study represent mild cases of sleep apnea.

“How important is the mild sleep apnea, we don’t know,” said Dr. Karl Franklin, the lead author of the study and a professor at Umea University in Sweden.

Terry Young, a professor in the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin, said mild sleep apnea is important to pay attention to.

“We see that it doesn’t go away and it gets worse,” she said. Sleep apnea is tied to a higher risk of stroke, heart attack and early death.

One recent study also found that women who have sleep apnea are more likely to develop memory problems and dementia (see Reuters Health story of August 9, 2011).

Franklin said his group wanted to get updated evidence of how common the condition is.