What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Women?

Let’s face the facts: sleep apnea has traditionally been seen as a sleep disorder that primarily affects men. What that means is,  for every 2 men with sleep apnea, one woman has it too — but because of conventional wisdom, sleep apnea in women may be less diagnosed.

Source: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0076631

Could that woman be you? The signs can be quite subtle and easy to miss, like shorter apneas or pauses in breathing that don’t quite reach the criteria to be considered an apnea². However,  understanding these differences in your symptoms can be critical to getting a proper diagnosis and effective treatment that works for you. 

While the mature, overweight male is the stereotypical picture of a person with sleep apnea, the reality is sleep apnea doesn’t discriminate – it affects women as well as men and, more importantly, is often overlooked in favor of other conditions. 

That’s why if you suspect you have sleep apnea, or your partner complains that you’ve recently started snoring, it might be time to find out what other symptoms to be on the lookout for.

Symptoms of sleep apnea in women are different than they are in men

In general, sleep apnea symptoms can be different and more subtle in women than they present in men. Knowing these differences may prove to be the difference between feeling empowered to advocate for yourself and your needs, or missing  the subtle warning signs and possibly letting sleep apnea go undiagnosed and untreated.

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor or try our online sleep assessment to find out whether you’re at risk in just a few minutes. 

One way you can ensure that any symptoms you have are identified and investigated is to be informed. Understanding how sleep apnea can affect women and what your treatment options are can help you get a restful night’s sleep and have more energy for the day.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea in women?

Source: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0076631

  • Chronic fatigue or tiredness
  • Snoring (not necessarily loud or frequent)
  • Morning headaches
  • Memory loss or learning problems
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Insomnia due to difficulty staying asleep
  • Moodiness or irritability.

Why are women less likely to be diagnosed with sleep apnea than men?

There are a number of possible reasons. For starters, the common symptoms we associate with obstructive sleep apnea, like snoring, simply aren't seen as much in women. Instead, women tend to present more ambiguous symptoms; including hyperthyroidism, depression, and chronic fatigue. Although they can be connected to sleep apnea, they are often misdiagnosed.

Do you suspect you have symptoms of sleep apnea? 

If you think you or your loved one might have some of the symptoms of sleep apnea, it may be time to take proactive measures, like talking to your doctor, to understand what could be at the root of your sleep issues. While diagnosing sleep apnea in women can be difficult, understanding the differences in symptoms could be critical to you getting a proper diagnosis and effective treatment.

Not sure where to start? The first step is to complete our free online sleep assessment. Based on your responses,  you’ll gain a better understanding of your risk for sleep apnea. You can also talk to your doctor about taking a home sleep test to diagnose your sleep issue.