Sleep apnoea is more commonly believed to affect men than women, with oxygen therapy a method for reducing the effects of the condition.
New research conducted in Sweden suggests the gender bias may be misguided as sleep apnoea can also be high in females.
Figures from the NHS indicate obstructive sleep apnoea occurs in four in 100 men and two in 100 women, with the condition more likely to develop in people aged between 35 and 54.
However, scientists at Uppsala and Umea University discovered the condition affected half of women aged 20 to 70.
They examined 400 women from a random sample of 10,000, with participants undergoing a sleep examination and completing questionnaires.
With 50 per cent of candidates suffering from the condition, it was also shown to be more common in those carrying excess weight and high blood pressure.
In fact, 80 per cent of women with hypertension also had sleep apnoea alongside 84 per cent of obese women.
"We were very surprised to find such a high occurrence of sleep apnoea in women, as it is traditionally thought of as a male disorder," lead author professor Karl Franklin said.
The NHS says that obstructive sleep apnoea affects 60 per cent of people over the age of 65, with the study - published in the European Respiratory Journal - reflecting this figure.
The disorder was prevalent among 31 per cent of obese women aged between 55 and 77, also demonstrating how weight can be a contributor to the condition.
"Clinicians should be particularly aware of the association between sleep apnoea and obesity and hypertension, in order to identify patients who could also be suffering from the sleeping disorder," professor Franklin said.
Failure to treat sleep apnoea can lead to type-2 diabetes, stroke, heart attack, hypertension and obesity, the NHS warns.
Posted by Jenny Richards
16/08/2012 12:52:10Subscribe to the News RSS feed