Why sleep apnea goes underdiagnosed in women

Ask anyone to describe the average sleep apnea sufferer, and they will probably describe someone male, ageing and overweight. In some ways, this is a reasonable response. A recent study showed that around six percent of women experience moderate or severe sleep apnea compared to 13 percent of men. It is also well-established that older people are more susceptible to developing sleep apnea.

However, it is important to remember that sleep apnea sufferers come in all sizes, races, ages, and genders. Women, in particular, are an underdiagnosed group when it comes to sleep apnea, with many suffering a variety of symptoms for many years without any medical assistance.

Why does sleep apnea go underdiagnosed in women?

One of the reasons that sleep apnea is often missed in women is that they tend to present with symptoms that are not considered to align with classic sleep apnea. Furthermore, a man who shares a bed with a woman with sleep apnea is much less likely to mention it compared with the other way around. Doctors are also less likely to ask women whether they have related symptoms.

Even women who do not snore particularly heavily or often may have sleep apnea. They may present with a range of other symptoms including:

– Restless legs
– Insomnia
– Fatigue
– Depression
– Morning headaches
– Difficulties concentrating
– Heartburn during the night
– Fibromyalgia
– Night sweats
– Dry mouth on waking
– Stress and feeling overwhelmed
– Frequently urination during the night
– Obesity
– High blood pressure

Women who are going through menopause are thought to be between three and four times more likely to experience sleep apnea compared to those who are premenopausal. Women who are in the second or third trimester of pregnancy are also at a higher risk of developing the condition.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, women with sleep apnea are often misdiagnosed as having chronic disorders such as anemia, diabetes, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and hypothyroidism. Many are also dismissed as simply having hypochondria. This means that many women with sleep apnea are treated with medications that are unlikely to help such as pain medications and antidepressants.

If you are a woman who experiences any combination of the symptoms described above, it is worth asking your doctor to investigate the possibility of sleep apnea.

How to spot sleep apnea in your child

One of the most obvious symptoms of sleep apnea is snoring. This makes it very easy to notice in your partner because it’s disrupting your sleep too. However, sleep apnea can be harder to spot in children, especially as their little bodies are going through so much growth and development, symptoms of sleep apnea can be easily missed, or misdiagnosed.

Sleep apnea is a condition which partially or completely obstructs the throat during sleep. A partial or complete obstruction during sleep can cause breathing to be reduced or stop for as little as 10 seconds or for more than a minute. The result is a drop in blood oxygen levels and your body will disrupt the sufferer’s sleep for around three seconds to allow breathing to begin again.

While the sufferer may be unaware of these interruptions, they cause disrupted sleep and can happen hundreds of times each night.

Does your child suffer from sleep apnea?

Children as young as two years old can suffer from sleep apnea. It more than just a disruption to their sleep, and can result in tiredness, learning delays, behavioural problems and medical conditions. Sleep apnea in children can be quickly diagnosed and easily treated. You may notice your child snores loudly, pauses breathing while they are asleep or has trouble breathing, so it could be time to take them to their GP for a diagnosis.

Sleep apnea in children can also appear as choking, gasping or snorting in their sleep, restlessness and sweating while asleep, breathing through their mouth and sleeping propped up in unusual positions. During the day you may notice a child with sleep apnea is tired when they wake up and is suffering from headaches, a blocked nose, a poor appetite or has trouble swallowing.

If sleep apnea is identified in your child treatment may include removing their adenoids and tonsils and controlling their weight if they are very overweight. A combination of medical treatments may include the use of a Continuous Positive Airways Pressure (CPAP) machine.

The warning signs of sleep apnea, and how to spot them

The question that plagues most snorers and restless sleepers is, do I have sleep apnea? As sleep apnea is a severe medical condition, it’s impossible to self-diagnose or treat the condition without professional medical assistance. However, spotting the warning signs is an integral part of the diagnosis process, as this allows you to seek help when the concerns about your sleeping patterns arise. In this article, we share with you common warning signs of sleep apnea, and the appropriate times to consult your doctor about your symptoms.


Let’s begin with the most obvious symptom of sleep apnea that most people are aware of: snoring. This loud noise emitted during sleep is an indication there is a blockage to the airway. What most sleep apnea sufferers experience is a loss of breathing or difficulty breathing during sleep, or waking up gasping, and this is a vital sign to identify. Some people snore as a result of lifestyle or nutrition choices, such as a reaction from excessive alcohol consumption or food intolerances; therefore, it’s crucial to investigate what type of snoring you experience.

Fatigue and excessive tiredness

As a result of disturbed sleeping, and the lack of oxygen your brain has received during sleep, most sleep apnea sufferers experience fatigue and feelings of being tired during the day. These symptoms occur despite how many hours of sleep you have received; it is particularly noticeable for people who have eight to nine hours of sleep yet can’t explain why they feel so tired.

Mood and Concentration Changes

From the interrupted and challenging sleep, sleep apnea sufferers complain of mood changes and fluctuations in their ability to concentrate. The lack of quality sleep can naturally leave people feeling moody, depressed and highly short-tempered. An issue with this particular symptom is that it’s associated with many other conditions, hence the importance of seeking professional medical help if this applies to you.

Interrupted Sleep

Very common for sleep apnea sufferers is the experience of an interrupted night’s sleep more often than not. Excessive sleep interruption can mean a multitude of things to different people; this can be waking up multiple times during the night, extreme tossing and turning, and periods of persistent insomnia.

Symptom Concerns

As we mentioned earlier, sleep apnea can only be diagnosed by sleep specialists through highly effective testing means. If you are concerned you, or your loved one, is displaying any of these warning signs, you are best to contact your doctor to discuss them thoroughly.

Photo: Tired. by lethaargic licensed under Creative commons 4

Should sleep apnea sufferers moderate their alcohol intake?

Although alcohol consumption is not a direct cause of sleep apnea, it could worsen the symptoms of the condition and impact your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Indeed, alcohol relaxes the airway muscles and diminishes a person’s ability to wake themselves up when they have stopped breathing.

This is particularly concerning for sleep apnea sufferers who are prone to stopping breathing during sleep. If they stop breathing after drinking alcohol, they will likely have to go without oxygen for a long period of time. When they wake up, therefore, they may experience heightened feelings of fatigue and, indeed, more intense hangover symptoms.

Alcohol can also keep you awake

Whilst you may fall asleep faster after a night of drinking, you may find it difficult to stay asleep. This is because alcohol disrupts the body’s ability to regulate melatonin levels, rendering sleep less restful overall. For sleep apnea sufferers who already experience problems with insomnia, this kind of disruption could make symptoms much worse.

Sleeping well after drinking

Just because you have sleep apnea does not mean you should completely abstain from alcohol. There are various methods you should follow to mitigate its impact on your body, however. These include:

1. Monitor your intake

Try not to consume too much and stop drinking alcohol at least two hours before you get into bed. This will give your body time to metabolise the drinks. If you’re struggling to keep your intake down, try looking into low-alcohol or alcohol-free options that you can sip during social occasions.

2. Always use your CPAP machine

This goes without saying, but it is always best to use your CPAP machine if you have one, particularly after drinking. If you’re a little tipsy it may be tempting to skip this vital step, so make sure to remind yourself a number of times before your evening is over.

3. Sleep on your side

Sleeping on your side allows gravity to open your relaxed airway, helping you to breathe more easily and potentially making your CPAP mask more effective. In fact, sleeping in this position is a good idea even if you have not been drinking.

ApneaSeal – An Innovation Discovered by Accident

ApneaSeal is Aussie Innovation at its best

Like countless ‘accidental’ discoveries in history such as Penicillin or the heart pacemaker, ApneaSeal was born on the merits of providing a customised CPAP mask fit to improve patient compliance and soon after, a prototype ApneaSeal was serendipitously born with the unique and advantageous property of being a rigid plastic. We often hear the question, “how on earth can hard plastic be comfortable”? Let’s discuss the science…

Yes, a Hard Plastic Mask

Traditional mask technologies target a need to make it easy for clinicians and patients to fit the mask with minimal sizes. Therefore, the mask needs to conform to a great diversity of patient faces… call it a perfect compromise that requires the mask to have soft, flexible qualities, however this property can make a mask prone to leak especially at high pressure.

Those skilled in mask engineering know how challenging it is to make a mask work exceptionally well within its very long list of design requirements. However, one design contradiction has, until now, been difficult to solve. That is, how to make the mask comfortable by conforming to the individual’s face, however, provide structural integrity and stability to maintain a seal throughout the night.

The stable comfort of an ApneaSeal is a unique combination that received its first granted patent in 2018. ApneaSeal uses human engineering skill to custom design a mask for each patient that spreads the forces in such a way to seal over various structures of the face with very little contact pressure, typically much less than a traditional mask. This results in a mask that remains light on the face all night long, even though the material is rigid plastic. ApneaSeal backs this science by providing patients with a mask fit guarantee to provide a positive sleep experience.

What’s Next?

Also, in early 2020, ApneaSeal expects to launch its completely new mask design that further revolutionises the “light all night” qualities with an unprecedented level of robust seal.

Phil Kwok – CPAP Mask Expert

ApneaSeal reveals exciting innovation at Sleep DownUnder 2019

Innovation at Sleep DownUnder 2019

Sleep DownUnder is Australia's premier annual event for the sleep health business. This year the event was held at the new International Convention Centre in Sydney and saw a rise in attendance over previous years.

Amongst the emerging sleep industry benchmark companies, ApneaSeal presented, for the first time, a functional example of their entirely new mask system. Having recently filed additional patents to those already granted, the ApneaSeal team was ready to present a taste of what’s to come in early 2020.

Key opinion leaders, clinicians, and physicians were impressed by demonstrations that showed the new mask exerting an exceptionally light touch against the face despite the 3D Seal being made of a rigid material compared with traditional soft silicone rubber. However, the real attraction was once the new ApneaSeal mask was shown to seal easily with no leaking at exceptionally high pressures well beyond normal CPAP therapy pressures, without any further tightening or over-tightening of headgear straps. The robustness of this seal at these high pressures is thought to be unheard of in the industry.

Based on the potential of providing an exceptionally strong seal and high comfort, it absolutely was no surprise the technology also had plenty of interest from paediatric physicians and clinicians. ApneaSeal looks forward to following up on the high level of interest from both the medical field as well as new dealers.

ApneaSeal Nose Studio at Sleep DownUnder 2019

ApneaSeal Nose Studio at Sleep DownUnder 2019

ApneaSeal Nose Studio 2019

ApneaSeal Nose Studio

Understanding sleep hygiene and sleep apnea

One of the essential concepts for sleep apnea sufferers to understand and address is sleep hygiene; this term refers to the habits and rituals of a good night’s sleep and the simple things that affect your slumber. As sleep apnea sufferers already experience disturbed nights, it’s particularly essential for them to practise adequate and regular sleep hygiene. In this article, we share with you the sleep hygiene practices every person with sleep apnea should know, and the importance of these rituals in managing this condition.

Short naps

For most sleep apnea sufferers, fatigue is an issue difficult to handle, and most sufferers rely on the mid-afternoon nap to re-energise them. However, good sleep hygiene dictates minimising naps to short, thirty-minute sessions to avoid disturbing or impacting a full night’s sleep.

Exercise is key

It’s common knowledge that exercise is important for your health and longevity, but especially for sleep apnea sufferers, exercise will help regulate sleeping patterns. While the form of exercise doesn’t have to be excessive, as walking is considered efficient, it’s more important for the activity to be regular, consistent and avoided just before bedtime.

Nourish wisely

Food is a significant trigger for sleep apnea sufferers, with many people reporting their symptoms intensifying after the consumption of rich, spicy or fatty foods. Each person reacts differently to these types of foods, so it’s best to understand which foods are your trigger and avoid their consumption before bedtime, or during times when your symptoms are worse.

Bedroom oasis

If you have been fitted with a CPAP machine to control your sleep apnea, falling asleep can prove challenging, especially in the beginning. Creating a sleep space that is inviting and comfortable is essential, so you can easily relax and fall asleep naturally. Coupled with a de-stressing bedtime routine, such as meditation, a relaxing bath or reading a book, your bedroom setup creates a space that induces sleep.

Avoid stimulants

Excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, especially before bedtime, can contribute to being unable to fall asleep or your continual waking, even with a CPAP machine. Healthy, balanced living is vital for sleep apnea sufferers, and this basic sleep hygiene practice emphasises the power of avoiding these toxins.

Stopping breathing while asleep..does this happen to your loved one?

Living with a loved one or family member who suffers from sleep apnea can be undeniably tough; you both experience sleepless nights, frustration from the lack of sleep, and the difficulty discussing treatment options and how best to seek professional help. Being supportive of your loved one during this time is crucial, and in this article, we discuss the ways to be there for the people in your life suffering from sleep apnea, and how you can better assist them to manage their condition.

Create an open discussion

People find snoring and sleep apnea a difficult topic to discuss with the people around them, usually due to embarrassment or a lack of understanding about the specifics of this medical condition. As a supportive loved one, the more open you can be about the topic, and the more willing you are to discuss the sufferer’s feelings and thoughts, the easier the process will be for the sufferer in their pursuit of treatment.

Prioritise sleep for both of you

When you sleep next to a person with sleep apnea, it can be challenging to fall asleep, sleep soundly or experience uninterrupted sleep every night. While you may wake up irritable and tired, your loved one experiences the same feelings, simply due to the nature of the condition. To be able to help each other better, both of you need to prioritise your sleep; this may involve sleeping in separate beds or rooms until treatment begins, or altering your bedroom orientation to accommodate for your new sleeping arrangement.

Encourage treatment

The idea of utilising a CPAP machine is daunting for most sufferers, yet most people don’t know how they survived once they begin using the device regularly. Treatment is one of the most important aspects to living with sleep apnea, and, as a supportive loved one, you are highly encouraged to motivate the sufferer to pursue treatment. Being present at consultations with specialists and appointments like mask fittings is essential too, as you learn crucial information about the condition, what actions are needed to recover or improve the condition, and how to better adjust to the use of a CPAP machine.

Encourage healthy habits

Sleep apnea is worsened by unhealthy living and habits that negatively impact a person’s wellbeing. These include dietary choices, such as drinking or consuming junk food, exercise choices such as inactivity, and weight gain or significant weight fluctuations. To give your loved one the best chance of recovering from sleep apnea, and potentially improving their condition, it’s essential to encourage healthy living actively. These actions may involve joining the sufferer in making significant lifestyle changes and consistently motivating them daily.

Photo: Two hands by K. Kendall licensed under Creative commons 4

Is sleep apnea hereditary?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects the muscles of the throat and causes the windpipe to narrow or close while an individual is asleep. Common symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring or gasping for air during sleep, insomnia, headaches, dry mouth and excessive sleepiness during the day.

The disorder could be passed down from parent to offspring, but it also depends on other factors, such as physiology, lifestyle and environment.

How do genetics show the possibility that sleep apnea runs in your family?

In genetics, this concept is called predisposal. It means that you are likely to develop the disorder if your parents had it. There is no guarantee that you will have the disease, but your chances are higher. This is because you may inherit some characteristics that influence the occurrence of the disorder, such as:

– Breathing problems such as asthma, allergies, and other respiratory diseases originating from the brain.

– Obesity as excess weight leads to fat deposits around your upper airway, which can obstruct breathing.

– Ethnic predisposition, research suggests that people originating from Africa, Hispanica, and Pacific Islands may be predisposed to the disorder.


It may be that sleep apnea is not caused by genetics, but by characteristics that make it possible to have the disorder, instead. The physical features include narrow nostrils, a small jawline, a receding chin, as well as an oversized tongue, uvula, and tonsils. If you notice some of these characteristics on your family members, you are more likely to develop sleep apnea because these characteristics can block airflow and affect breathing patterns.

Environment and lifestyle

Like obesity and other related disorders that patients could be predisposed by shared genetics, sleep apnea can also be caused by your environment and lifestyle. In simpler terms, you are more likely to develop sleep apnea if you eat a high-calorie diet and do not do enough exercise. The good news is, you have control over these factors. You should, therefore, practice good health by eating a balanced diet and doing regular exercise.

What to do if you suspect you have sleep apnea?

Loud snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, but not everyone who has the disorder snores. Visit your doctor and get a diagnosis or treatments such as the use of CPAP Machine.

Why custom CPAP masks take the guesswork out of the a good night’s sleep

The secret to the perfect night sleep with a CPAP machine has everything to do with the mask; with a mask that fits you correctly, that is sized best for your face and head shape, and that feels comfortable, will ensure you a good night’s sleep. However, navigating the many CPAP mask options can be tricky, and with the abundance of options available, finding the right sleep apnea mask can feel overwhelming. We share with you why custom-fit CPAP masks will help you speed up the arduous adjustment process, will save you money on ill-fitting masks, and help you manage your symptoms easily.

Perfect sizing

Standard CPAP masks come in various sizes; however, when it comes to such a highly personal apparatus, standard sizing doesn’t cover the ranging facial structures and head sizes of the general population. Size can be an extreme factor why patients feel uncomfortable while wearing the mask. With a tight mask, the straps and apparatus cause pressure on the face and head and can lead to tension headaches. A loose-fitting mask that doesn’t stay gripped to the face can result in leaking air and inefficient sleeping experience. Some patients will interrupt this experience as a broken machine; however, this is the result of an insufficiently sized mask.

Perfect style

With a custom created CPAP mask, you can develop a style of mask that suits you best. Some people enjoy sleeping on their backs, some on their side, and a mask fitted to accommodate this will allow you to continue to enjoy your favourite sleeping style. Body positioning isn’t the only style customisation offered, as you are presented with the choice of nasal airflow, mouth airflow or both, allowing you to pick a breathing style that works best for you.

Sleep advice

The one on one time spent with the experts custom fitting your CPAP mask provides you valuable access to specific sleep apnea advice. Unless you know someone who suffers the same condition, finding diverse, reliable information about what is best for your particular situation can be tricky to find. With direction on best pillow choices, bedroom set up, and how to keep your CPAP machine maintained effectively, and your consultant can provide you with everything you need to know.

Less trial and error time

When you suffer from sleep apnea, the last thing you want is to spend weeks, months or even years figuring out the best setup for your CPAP mask. The reality is most patients experience lengthy processes to finding the right mask, and you can exhaust time, money and energy simply enduring this process.

Call us today to find out how we can help you.