Battle of the Sexes: Sleep Showdown

gender, male, female, snoring, sleep apnea

There are two glaring differences in the lifespan of a woman compared to that of a man..  Women have hormonal changes around their cycle and they can become pregnant. Both of these events have implications on not only women’s ability to fall asleep but also the quality of their sleep.  

The occurrence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea is significantly less for women compared to men when we look at women that are pre-menopause.  The numbers are staggering, with men being twice as likely to have sleep apnea compared to women.  However, once women go through menopause the prevalence increases from 21 to 47 percent.  There are so many changes happening post menopause, sleep-disordered breathing may not be top of the list relevant to the symptoms women are presenting.   Women don’t tend to be loud snorers, have witnessed apneas, or large neck sizes. Without these traditional ‘signs’ of sleep apnea, physicians may be reluctant to test for it.
Pregnancy is another time when women frequently experience struggles with sleep quality.  Often, the sleepiness can be attributed to the energy it takes to create a human being inside their belly!  Yes, that definitely is a reason to be tired. However, there are other reasons that women might be sleepier during pregnancy.  You guessed it… sleep apnea! Sleep apnea and other sleep disturbances like Restless Leg Syndrome during pregnancy exacerbate the fatigue and tiredness associated with pregnancy.  These sleep disorders can affect the baby too!  These pregnancies can result in preterm delivery, prolonged deliveries, smaller babies and increased rate of C-Sections!  It’s important that mom is breathing appropriately and feeding baby that oxygen that it so desperately needs for development.  

We are all tired when it comes to running from work, to the gym, to soccer practice, to cooking and then FINALLY to bed.  Sometimes it’s not just the day that makes us tired. If you find yourself always tired, no matter how much sleep you get, it is time to talk to your doctor about looking deeper into your sleep struggles.   
Your baby will thank you.


“How to Sleep Better During Menopause.”  National Sleep Foundation, 10 August 2018,

Lin, Christine M et al. “Gender differences in obstructive sleep apnea and treatment implications” Sleep medicine reviews vol. 12,6 (2008): 481-96.

National Sleep Foundation “Women & Sleep Case Study” Sleep Learning Zone, Dr. Chris Winter and Dr. Afifa Uzzaman, Vimeo,

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