Beacon Dental Sleep Medicine Clinic, Sandyford, Dublin, D18 E7P4 l Tel: +353 1 531 0088

Obstructive Sleep Apnea & Snoring in Women

Research suggests that obstructive sleep apnea is about twice as common in men than it is in women. While men are at greater risk of this sleep disorder, part of this difference may also be attributed to the underdiagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea in women.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the airway becomes blocked during sleep and momentarily interferes with breathing. Research related to the diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea has long focused on how this sleep disorder occurs in men.

Not until recently has research looked at how the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea are affected by sex and gender. Read on to learn more about obstructive sleep apnea in women, including why it may be underdiagnosed, risk factors in women, and when to talk to a doctor.

Why Is Sleep Apnea Less Common in Women?

Obstructive sleep apnea is underdiagnosed in women. This means that many people have the disorder without it being recognised or treated. Several reasons may account for the underdiagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. 

  • Hormonal differences: Researchers believe that differences related to sex, including anatomy and hormones, may explain why women are less likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea. 
  • Differences in symptoms: Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are often different in women which can cause doctors to misdiagnose the condition. Additionally, since symptoms can differ by sex, women may not meet insurance criteria for needed diagnostic tests. 
  • Diagnostic challenges: Even when additional testing is performed, women may have unique results that do not meet the standards for a diagnosis of sleep apnea. At-home sleep apnea testing, which is becoming more common, is also more likely to miss the presence of obstructive sleep apnea in women.
  • Stigma: Most people with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight or obese. Women with obesity often feel stigmatized in medical situations and may hesitate to engage with their doctor. Avoiding care can lead to conditions like obstructive sleep apnea going undiagnosed. 

Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Women

Many women with obstructive sleep apnea don’t realise that their breathing becomes abnormal when they sleep. For this reason, it’s common for a bed partner or roommate to be the first to notice breathing issues during sleep. Signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Sleepiness throughout the day
  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping or choking sounds during sleep
  • Headaches after waking 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Decreased sex drive 
  • Waking up at night to use the bathroom 

While these signs and symptoms can occur in people of any sex or gender, some symptoms are more common and helpful in detecting obstructive sleep apnea in men. For example, women with obstructive sleep apnea are less likely to report daytime sleepiness and snoring when compared to men.

Women with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to report the symptoms of insomnia, depression, and morning headaches. Women may also experience other symptoms like restless legs, nightmares, and heart palpitations.

Download further information on ‘Women & Sleep Apnea’


Treatment for Sleep Apnea

What is Dental Sleep Medicine?

Dental Sleep Medicine is an area of clinical expertise that focuses on the management of sleep-related breathing disorders, including snoring, noisy disturbed sleep, sleep apnea, CPAP intolerance, and sleep bruxism (teeth grinding), with the design and fitting of customised oral/dental appliances.


What is Oral Appliance Therapy?

An oral appliance is a device worn in the mouth only during sleep. The device fits similarly to a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer and prevents the airway from collapsing by either supporting the tongue or jaw in a forward position, thereby opening the airway.



About Dental Sleep Medicine at The Beacon Dental Clinic

As director of the Beacon Dental Group Dr. Edward G Owens is a hospital-affiliated Prosthodontist. He has been working successfully with oral appliances to treat snoring and obstructive sleep apnea since 1997 with both men & women. 

He collaborates with major hospital sleep disorder clinics and has been active in the management of oral sleep appliances and the development of Dental Sleep Medicine in Ireland.

For further information on Sleep Apnoea Treatment, contact us today 



Beacon Dental Sleep Medicine Clinic is based in the Beacon Dental Clinic, Beacon Consultants Clinic, Dublin, D18 E7P4, Ireland

Tel: +353 1 531 0088 | Fax: +353 1 213 5645 | Email:




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