Gender differences in clinical and polysomnographic features of obstructive sleep apnea: a clinical study of 2827 patients

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is underdiagnosed in females due to different clinical presentation. We aimed to determine the effect of gender on clinical and polysomnographic features and identify predictors of OSA in women.

Differences in demographic, clinical, and polysomnographic parameters between 2052 male and 775 female OSA patients were compared.

In female OSA patients, age (56.1 ± 9.7 vs. 50.4 ± 11.6 years, p < 0.0001) and body mass index (36.3 ± 8.6 vs. 31.8 ± 5.9 kg/m(2), p < 0.0001) were increased, whereas men had higher waist-to-hip ratio and neck circumference (p < 0.0001). Hypertension, diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, and asthma were more common in females (p < 0.0001). Men reported more witnessed apnea (p < 0.0001), but nocturnal choking, morning headache, fatigue, insomnia symptoms, impaired memory, mood disturbance, reflux, nocturia, and enuresis were more frequent in women (p < 0.0001). The indicators of OSA severity including apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) (p < 0.0001) and oxygen desaturation index (p = 0.007) were lower in women. REM AHI (p < 0.0001) was higher, and supine AHI (p < 0.0001) was lower in females. Besides, women had decreased total sleep time (p = 0.028) and sleep efficiency (p = 0.003) and increased sleep latency (p < 0.0001). In multivariate logistic regression analysis, increased REM AHI, N3 sleep, obesity, age, morning headache, and lower supine AHI were independently associated with female gender.

These data suggest that frequency and severity of sleep apnea is lower in female OSA patients, and they are presenting with female-specific symptoms and increased medical comorbidities. Therefore, female-specific questionnaires should be developed and used for preventing underdiagnosis of OSA.

Sleep & breathing = Schlaf & Atmung. 2017 Feb 14 [Epub ahead of print]

Ozen K Basoglu, Mehmet Sezai Tasbakan

Department of Chest Diseases, Ege University School of Medicine, Bornova, 35100, Izmir, Turkey. ., Department of Chest Diseases, Ege University School of Medicine, Bornova, 35100, Izmir, Turkey.