Major Sleep Disorders Among Women

(Women's Health Series)

Sadeka Tamanna, MD, MPH; Stephen A. Geraci, MD


South Med J. 2013;106(8):470-478. 

In This Article


Sleep disorders are far more common in women than previously appreciated and presenting symptoms often differ from those in men. Although insomnia itself is more prevalent among women, it can constitute an atypical presentation of other sleep disorders such as OSA in women. Women often are incorrectly diagnosed as having and been treated for anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, and psychosomatic disorders when having OSA instead. Postmenopausal women carry a higher risk for OSA and should be screened with a comprehensive sleep evaluation and sleep study if these symptoms are present. Cardiovascular risks of untreated OSA are high and women should be aware of their individual risks. PAP therapy should be offered to women with OSA and other treatment options should be discussed if they fail to improve with optimal PAP therapy. RLS is common among women of all ages, but it is more frequent during pregnancy. Correction of iron deficiency and use of dopaminergic medications can be helpful for treatment.

Sleep is essential for women to live a functional, productive life. Diagnostic evaluations should be performed and, if needed, treatment prescribed when sleep is disturbed.