For Women’s Health Week (4-8 September 2023), Maxillofacial Surgeon and Sleep Apnea pioneer Dr Paul Coceancig shares insights into the impact of sleep apnea on women’s health and wellbeing.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts, it is punctuated by loud snores. The disorder occurs due to the relaxing airway muscles causing the tongue to collapse, thus obstructing and choking the airway that runs behind it.
Almost everyone who develops sleep apnea starts with having a small jaw. The small size of the jaw narrows the airway, and may not allow enough room for the tongue, which can fall to the back of the throat and block the airway during sleep.
Other risk factors can include excess weight, increased neck circumference, alcohol use, smoking, family history, medical conditions and nasal congestion.
Impact of sleep apnea on health in the short-term
In the short term sleep apnea can result in brain fog, lethargy, hyperactivity, excessive daytime sleepiness, somatic problems and psychological issues.
Impact of sleep apnea on health in the long-term
Having chronically low oxygen levels, particularly during sleep, causes your blood and arteries to irreversibly thicken. This thickening underpins the development (and secondary organ effects) of high blood pressure, as well as dramatically increasing your chance for heart, brain and kidney disease. Obesity is not only a major aggravator for developing sleep apnea, obesity also occurs because of sleep apnea too.
Some research indicates that the sleep disorder can lower your life expectancy by as much as 15 years.
Impact of sleep apnea on women’s health
Women may experience hormonal disruptions, reduced libido, weight gain, low energy and may even develop very serious chronic health conditions and disease. This is because sleep apnea affects your ability to fall into and stay in a restorative deep sleep. Lack of regular deep sleep can affect women’s hormonal health and upset their health equilibrium. During deep sleep, our pituitary gland and pineal gland secrete hormones that drive the thyroid, adrenals, pancreas, ovaries, as well as a myriad of other tissues in our bodies that control the equilibrium of our hormonal health. This disruption to the body can impact overall health, energy levels and result in weight gain, where no amount of diet or exercise can help you shift it.
What should I do if I think I have sleep apnea?
The first step is to acknowledge that you need to take control of your health and wellbeing and seek medical advice. First seek the advice of your GP who can refer you to a sleep physician to determine if you have sleep apnea. If it is determined that you have the sleep disorder, a range of established interventions are available, which your Doctor can advise on. These can include lifestyle changes, breathing devices and surgical procedures.
About Women’s Health Week
Jean Hailes Women’s Health Week is Australia’s largest event dedicated to the health and wellbeing of all women, girls and gender-diverse people. The theme for this year’s Women’s Health Week is Grow your knowledge. It’s all about supporting women to make informed decisions about their health. Find more information here.
About Dr Paul Coceancig
As the pioneer of a surgical solution to sleep apnea, Dr Paul Coceancig is dedicated to providing patients with world-class treatment for jaw and facial concerns that impact sleep, health and confidence. Dr Paul Coceancig is an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon whose revolutionary IMDO surgery has changed the lives of patients around the world.
His surgical solutions have the potential to prevent and cure sleep apnea for adolescents and adults, giving hope of a better night’s sleep. Check out his website here.