Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Women vs. Men: What’s the Difference?

Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Women vs. Men: Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by brief interruptions in breathing during sleep. While it can affect people of all ages and genders, it’s essential to recognize that the symptoms of sleep apnea can manifest differently between women and men. Understanding these gender-specific differences is crucial for timely diagnosis and effective treatment. In this blog post, we’ll explore the distinct symptoms of sleep apnea in women versus men to help you or your loved ones recognize potential signs and seek appropriate care.

Sleep Apnea in Women: Unique Symptoms

1. Depression and Anxiety

One significant difference in how sleep apnea presents in women is the increased likelihood of experiencing symptoms related to mental health. Women with sleep apnea may be more prone to depression and anxiety. These mood disorders can be exacerbated by chronic sleep disruption, making it essential to consider sleep apnea as a potential underlying cause for these emotional struggles.

2. Type 2 Diabetes

Another distinctive symptom in women with sleep apnea is an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The sleep disruptions associated with sleep apnea can lead to insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism, ultimately contributing to the development of diabetes. Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels is essential for women at risk.

3. Longer Time to Go to Sleep (Insomnia)

Many women with sleep apnea struggle with insomnia, finding it challenging to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. These sleep disturbances can lead to daytime fatigue and irritability, affecting overall well-being and productivity.

4. Pain

Some women with sleep apnea may experience unexplained chronic pain, such as headaches or muscle aches. This discomfort can be attributed to the physiological stress caused by recurrent oxygen desaturation during sleep.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that affects some women with sleep apnea, particularly those who have experienced traumatic events. The combination of sleep disruptions and PTSD symptoms can create a challenging cycle, with sleep apnea exacerbating PTSD symptoms and vice versa.

Sleep Apnea in Men: Common Symptoms

1. Large Neck Circumference

One of the most significant risk factors for sleep apnea in men is a large neck circumference, typically greater than 16 inches. A thicker neck can result in a narrower airway, making it more susceptible to blockages during sleep.

2. Snoring

Loud and persistent snoring is a classic symptom of sleep apnea in men. It occurs when the airway partially collapses, causing vibrations in the throat tissues. While snoring itself isn’t harmful, it can be a warning sign of underlying sleep apnea.

3. Witnessed Gasping

Bed partners or family members may notice episodes of gasping or choking during a man’s sleep. These sudden awakenings can be frightening and are indicative of disrupted breathing patterns.

4. Daytime Sleepiness

Excessive daytime sleepiness is a common symptom in men with sleep apnea. The frequent interruptions in sleep prevent them from achieving restorative rest, leading to daytime fatigue, drowsiness, and decreased alertness.

5. Fragmented Sleep

Men with sleep apnea often experience fragmented sleep, characterized by numerous brief awakenings throughout the night. These interruptions prevent the individual from progressing through the sleep cycle properly, resulting in poor sleep quality.

Seeking Help and Taking Action

Recognizing the gender-specific differences in sleep apnea symptoms is the first step in seeking appropriate care. If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional or a sleep specialist. A proper diagnosis can lead to personalized treatment options, which may include lifestyle changes, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, or oral appliances.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Don’t delay seeking help if you suspect sleep apnea is affecting your quality of life. Contact a healthcare provider or sleep specialist for a comprehensive evaluation. Timely intervention can significantly improve your sleep and overall health.

Sleep apnea can manifest differently in women and men, making it crucial to recognize these distinctions for timely diagnosis and effective treatment. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in this article, it’s essential to seek professional help. Dr. Lige Dunaway, a skilled dentist in Lafayette, LA, with advanced training in managing Orofacial Pain Conditions and Sleep-Disordered Breathing (including snoring and sleep apnea), can provide the expertise and care you need to address these concerns. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Dr. Dunaway to improve your sleep and overall health.

Schedule an appointment today to address your sleep apnea symptoms and improve your overall health.