Patient survey highlights need for healthcare professional support around sleep apnoea
46% of female patients with sleep apnoea are suffering with sleep problems for over five years before being correctly diagnosed with the condition. These were the results from the ‘Reclaim Your Sleep’ ResMed Ltd patient survey which also concludes that female patients want more information from their GP about sleep apnoea (64%) and available treatments (62%).
The ResMed Ltd survey conducted by the Sleep Apnoea Trust Association amongst 489 patients who had been diagnosed with sleep apnoea by a healthcare professional (129 women, 360 men) also reveals the lack of understanding of the condition amongst female patients as they admit a low awareness of these facts:
- Pregnancy increases a woman's risk of developing sleep apnoea (95% are not aware)
- Sleep apnoea in women is different than sleep apnoea in men (91% are not aware)
- Menopause increases a woman's risk of developing sleep apnoea (91% are not aware)
- More women than men with sleep apnoea are undiagnosed (80% are not aware)
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) affects an estimated 1.5 million adults in the UK. Sleep apnoea has historically been considered a male disease and because of this, low diagnosis is more prevalent in women than men, with one study indicating that 93% of women remain undiagnosed. Additionally, even when presenting with typical OSA symptoms, women are less likely to be referred to sleep clinics and may be misdiagnosed with depression, hypothyroidism or other illnesses.
Professor John Stradling, a sleep disorder expert from Oxford University says:
GPs are obviously the best and first port of call for those looking for support and advice around sleep apnoea. However it is important that all healthcare professionals play a role in discussing the condition with at-risk patients to facilitate diagnosis and treatment. Remaining untreated leaves patients at risk of serious and costly comorbidities, and successful treatment can improve their quality of life. The sooner a patient’s sleep issues are addressed by a sleep expert, the better.
The survey also reveals some of the benefits of treatment with female patients supporting the positive impact that it has had on their lives including;
- An improvement in their quality of sleep – 70%
- Feeling less tired when waking up and less sleepy throughout the day – 71%
- Less headaches when they wake up – 34%
- An improvement in their mood (35%) their health overall (31%), the quality of their work (25%) and their self-confidence (14%)
- Feeling less depressed – 23%
Bill Johnston, Chairman, from the Sleep Apnoea Trust Association says:
It is unacceptable that patients are waiting sometimes over five years to be diagnosed with the condition and we must act now. We call on healthcare professionals to keep an eye out for the symptoms and risk factors of sleep apnoea, particularly amongst this high risk group, women. Likewise we ask female patients to stop suffering in silence and speak to their healthcare professionals about their sleep quality, and any difficulties sleeping (such as insomnia, frequent awakenings, snoring and sleepiness or tiredness during the day), so that their condition is adequately diagnosed and managed, helping them to get on with their day to day lives.