Sleep apnea in females

Is there a difference?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea has always been predominantly associated with males, although new research suggests that females are just as likely to suffer from the sleep disorder, making it more prevalent in women than we realise.  

Common indicators of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) include snoring, daytime fatigue, and physical signs of apnoeic episodes such as choking or gasping during sleep. Most of which have been observed in male studies.

Recent reports have found that women are just as likely to suffer from sleep apnea but their symptoms are different, and therefore often mistaken for other changes within their body. Symptoms can be confused with:

- Onset of menopause

- Changes of cognitive function during pregnancy, aka “Baby Brain”

- Getting older

- Hormonal imbalances

- Leading a busy and/or stressful lifestyle


Females with OSA show less signs of daytime sleepiness and fatigue, and instead experience other conditions such as insomnia, restless legs, depression, and hypertension1. In addition, research indicates that women can become more susceptible to sleep disordered breathing during pregnancy and post-menopause due to hormonal changes2.


Compared to women who do not suffer from OSA, women with untreated sleep-disordered breathing are more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment and, in some cases, dementia3. Untreated severe OSA is associated with cardiovascular disease and can heavily impact the quality of ones life, however adequate CPAP therapy may reduce this risk4.


Potential health risks aside, there is often a stigma surrounding women who snore, with it being considered “un-ladylike” or stereotyped as someone who is unhealthy or overweight. Studies show this is not the case.

There are sometimes fears that having to wear a CPAP Mask in bed will make them undesirable to their partner, or that their size is putting them at a higher health risk, which understandably causes women to avoid seeking help or discussing treatment options with partners, family or physicians.


Sleep apnea is just as common in women as it is in men. The symptoms in women appear differently regardless of age, weight, and family history therefore it should not be ruled out without appropriate testing. Lack of awareness or open discussion about sleep apnea can often lead to many ladies being undiagnosed, which is why our aim is to remove the stigma and encourage women who may be at risk, to seek the help and support they need.


I think I have sleep apnea or know someone who might, what can I do? 

Book a consultation with your GP

We recommend to discuss your options with a doctor, you may be referred to a sleep specialist or asked to complete an overnight sleep study.

Complete a sleep test

CPAP Direct offers different types of sleep tests that can be completed in the comfort of your own home. You may even be entitled to rebate from Medicare.

Share this page with a friend of family member

Share this information with someone who you think may benefit from knowing about sleep apnea and the potential health risks

Ask for help

If you feel you may suffer from sleep apnea or would like to discuss your options with a trained female clinician who understands what you are experiencing, please register your details below and we'll be in contact to offer you support.


Recognising the differences, ResMed and SmartMed are the first to develop a CPAP device designed specifically to treat OSA in females.

Their unique algorithms respond to apnoeic events in a more sensitive way, compared to the standard algorithm, that prevents sleep disturbance and therefore better long-term compliance.

These devices are specifically designed to treat sleep apnea in females.

Shop SmartMed iBreeze Female Device

Shop SmartMed iDisc Device

Shop ResMed AirSense 10 For Her Device


1. Franklin KA et al. Sleep apnoea is a common occurrence in females. Eur Respir J 2012
2. Young T et al. Menopausal status and sleep-disordered-breathing in the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2003; 176(9):1181-5
3. Yaffe L et al. Sleep-disordered-breathing, hypoxia, and risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia in older women. Jama 2011; 306(6):613-9
4. Campos-Rodriguez F et al. Cardiovascular mortality in women with obstructive sleep apnea with or without continuous positive airway pressure treatment: a cohort study. Ann Intern Med 2012; 156(2):115-22
5. O’Connor C, Thornley KS, and Hanly PJ. Gender differences in the polysomnographic features of obstructive sleep apnea. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2000; 161(5):1465-726


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