Gender-specific differences in a patient population with obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome

Dietlind L. Wahner-Roedler, Eric J. Olson, Sujata Narayanan, Richa Sood, Andrew C. Hanson, Laura L. Loehrer, Amit Sood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Background: Sleep-related breathing disorders are increasingly recognized as an important cause of morbidity and mortality. Women with obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome (OSA) are less likely to be assessed or to receive a diagnosis, and they may have poorer survival rates. Objective: This study assessed gender-specific differences in patients with OSA. Methods: Data were collected with a prospective, point-of-care, anonymous 25-question survey about basic medical information and therapies for patients undergoing polysomnography at the sleep center of a US tertiary care center from January 1 through March 31, 2005. Results: Of the 646 consecutive patients who received the survey, 522 (80.8%) patients completed it, and 406 subsequently received a diagnosis of OSA. Of those 406 patients, 267 (65.8%) were men. Overall mean age was 57 years (56.4 years for men; 56.7 years for women). Alcohol use was more common in men (132 [49.4%]) than in women (43 [30.90,6]) (P < 0.001). Women were more likely to have the following associated comorbidities: obesity (body mass index ≥30) (P = 0.047), fibromyalgia (P < 0.001), migraine (P < 0.001), depression (P = 0.01), and irritable bowel syndrome (P = 0.01). The 4 most frequently reported sleep-related symptoms in both sexes were snoring (279 [68.7%]), lack of energy (235 [57.9%]), difficulty staying asleep (206 [50.7%]), and daytime sleepiness (204 [50.2%]). Lack of energy (P = 0.01), difficulty falling asleep (P = 0.02), and night sweats (P = 0.01) were observed more frequently in women than in men. There was no significant gender difference in the recalled duration of sleep-related symptoms. The mean (SD) apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) was 26.6 (26.6) for men and 22.1 (26.5) for women (P = 0.02). Conventional medications (including prescription and over-the-counter medications) for sleep-related problems were used more by women (35 [25.2%]) than by men (29 [10.9%]) (P < 0.001). Conclusions: The majority of patients who received a diagnosis of OSA were men (male-female ratio, 2:1), and the mean AHI was higher in men than in women. However, women presented with more nonspecific symptoms than did men, although there was no significant gender-specific difference in the recalled duration of symptoms. In addition, women reported more comorbidities and used significantly more conventional medications for sleep-related problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-338
Number of pages10
JournalGender Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • gender
  • polysomnography
  • sex
  • sleep apnea
  • sleep hypopnea
  • surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies


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