Although we most often think of men as being the ones most likely to snore or have sleep apnea, women are also at risk for disruptive sleep disorders. And now it seems, according to a recent study, women may be more affected by their sleep disorders. They are more likely to report severe symptoms and experience the burden of their sleep disorder than men.
Depression and Daytime Sleepiness
For this study, researchers looked at the records of 744 patients who got sleep-related care at seven general practices from April 2013 to January 2015. The patients were seeking health for a number of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and insomnia. They were evaluated with several validated sleep questionnaires, including the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), the Snoring Severity Scale (SSS), and the Functional Outcomes of Sleep Questionnaire 10.
The study found that women were more likely to report daytime sleepiness, say they had trouble sleeping at night, and report severe depression. They were also more likely to have cognitive problems related to sleep disturbance. And women were more likely to say that they felt burdened by the symptoms of their sleep disturbance.
But perhaps the most striking thing about the survey is not what’s different, but what’s the same. For both men and women, the proportion of partners disturbed by snoring was the same. The only difference is that men were more likely to drive their partners out of the room with their snoring. (Though perhaps men are more likely to call 911 on snoring partners !)
Targeted Treatment Response
This study helps us understand that the response to sleep disorders depends not just on the severity of sleep disturbance, but also on the characteristics of the person with the disorder. Researchers hope that this can help health professionals like sleep dentists better manage sleep disorders holistically.
After all, the goal of treatment isn’t just to reduce an objective measure like the apnea/hypopnea index (AHI). We also need to make sure that we’re responding properly to the subjective manifestations of sleep disorders, addressing the emotional and cognitive burdens of sleep disorders as well as the physical ones.
Treatment That Isn’t Just Another Burden
If you are already feeling burdened by your sleep problems, CPAP can seem like just another indignity heaped on. CPAP is a cumbersome treatment that by its very bulk and invasiveness is a burden. It has a heavy emotional quotient, especially for young women who are dating.
Oral appliances are a much more svelte treatment. They are much easier to bear, emotionally as well as physically. Their subtle nature and ease of use makes them more acceptable as a health intervention in line with the things we already do to take care of our health and beauty.