Nearly half of all women are sleep deprived, but most suffer in silence
Are you tired? I’m tired. All women are tired.
OK, well, maybe not all of them, but according to the Sleep Apnoea Trust Association (SATA), 46 percent are sleep deprived — compared with 36 percent of men — based on a study of the sleeping habits of 4,100 women and men in the U.K.
The Reclaim Your Sleep study also revealed that 30 percent of women don’t think they should bother their GP with their sleep problems, and 32 percent believe they have learned to deal with the issues on their own.
Bill Johnston, chairman of SATA, said daytime tiredness is often dismissed as an unavoidable aspect of modern life or a side effect of growing older, but in fact sleep issues could be sign of sleep apnoea, a disorder characterised by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow breathing during sleep.
Pregnant and menopausal women are most likely to suffer from the disorder. Other than insomnia, common symptoms include snoring, restless legs, fatigue, headaches, depression, decreased libido and muscle pain.
According to SATA, the largest U.K. charity working in the field of sleep apnoea, the condition is easy to treat once diagnosed, but if left unattended, it can lead to daytime fatigue and serious health issues including heart attacks and strokes.
Sleep apnoea has historically been considered a male disease, so much so that one study showed 90 percent of women with moderate to severe sleep apnoea may be undiagnosed.
How to know if you have sleep apnoea
According to the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association, sleep apnoea sufferers may experience some of the following:
- Extremely loud, heavy snoring, often interrupted by pauses and gasps
- Excessive daytime sleepiness — e.g., falling asleep at work, whilst driving, during conversation or when watching TV (not to be confused with occasional excessive tiredness)
- Morning headaches
- Unexplained changes in mood or behaviour
- Anxiety or depression
- Decreased interest in sex
If you think you may have sleep apnoea, visit your GP and ask to be referred for a specialist "sleep study," which may involve an overnight stay in hospital. Equipment will be used to monitor the quality of your sleep, and the results of the study will determine the most appropriate treatment.
In mild and moderate cases, weight loss and the use of mandibular-advancement devices (which hold the lower jaw and tongue forward, making more space to breathe and thus preventing snoring) can be completely successful. In more severe cases, a mandibular-advancement device or nasal continuous positive airway pressure (a small machine carrying pressurised air to a face mask or nasal pillow) are normally prescribed.