Sleep apnoea is a common occurrence in females

  1. Eva Lindberg+
  1. *Department of Surgical and Perioperative Sciences, Surgery, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
  2. #Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
  3. Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Epidemiology and Public Health, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
  4. +Department of Medical Sciences, Respiratory Medicine and Allergology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  1. Karl A. Franklin, Department of Surgery, Umeå University Hospital, SE-901 85 Umeå, Sweden, E-mail: karl.franklin{at}surgery.umu.se

Abstract

Obstructive sleep apnoea is primarily regarded as a male disorder, presenting with snoring, daytime sleepiness and cardiovascular disease. We aimed to determine the frequency of sleep apnoea among females in the general population.

We investigated 400 females from a population-based random sample of 10,000 females aged 20–70 years. They answered a questionnaire and performed overnight polysomnography.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (apnoea-hypopnoea index ≥ 5) was found in 50% (95% CI 45–55%) of females aged 20–70 years. Sleep apnoea was related to age, obesity and hypertension but not to daytime sleepiness. Severe sleep apnoea (apnoea-hypopnoea index ≥ 30) was scored in 14% (95% CI 8.1–21%) of females aged 55–70 years and in 31% (95% CI 12–50%) of obese females with a body-mass index of >30 kg·m−2 aged 50–70 years. Sleep apnoea with daytime sleepiness and sleep apnoea with hypertension were observed as two different phenotypes of obstructive sleep apnoea.

Obstructive sleep apnoea occurs in 50% of females aged 20–70 years. 20% of females have moderate, and 6% severe sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea in females is related to age, obesity and hypertension but not to daytime sleepiness. When searching for sleep apnoea in females, females with hypertension or obesity should be investigated.