A new study finds that the hot flashes and night sweats experienced by many middle-aged women may be associated with an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep condition which involves repeated stopping and starting of breathing during sleep.
In fact, the researchers found that the more severe the hot flashes and night sweats were in women, the higher their risk for the sleep condition.
Besides leading to poorer quality of sleep, obstructive sleep apnea may cause serious health problems in women, including increased risks of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
“Obstructive sleep apnea is often thought of as a man’s disease, and men’s symptoms are more outwardly noticeable, in large part because of snoring,” said Stephanie Faubion, M.D.
“However, the risk for obstructive sleep apnea in women goes up in their menopausal years. The symptoms they face — headache, insomnia, anxiety, depression, in addition to the more common symptoms of snoring and fatigue — may not be as audible or visible to others, but they pose just as much risk to overall health.”
To investigate the condition in middle-aged women, researchers used the Data Registry on Experience of Aging, Menopause and Sexuality, which holds health information on women seen in the Women’s Health Clinic at Mayo Clinic.
Their findings show that, of the patients seen between May 2015 and December 2016, self-reported severe hot flashes and night sweats were linked to an intermediate to high risk of obstructive sleep apnea. Women with high blood pressure and those who were obese were at a particularly high risk, but women with a healthy body mass index were also at risk.
Two years after the clinical check-up when patients self-reported their hot flashes and night sweats, 65 percent of the group that showed intermediate or high risk of obstructive sleep apnea still was not diagnosed with the condition.
“Hot flashes and night sweats may be overlooked as a risk of something more serious,” said Faubion. “The implementation of screening tools during evaluation can help determine what symptoms women are facing, and put us on track to detect and intervene with serious health issues, such as obstructive sleep apnea, sooner.”
Hot flashes and night sweats are experienced by up to 80 percent of women in their menopause years. In addition, obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea.
The findings of the study are published in the journal Menopause.
Source: Mayo Clinic