THURSDAY, Aug. 16, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Although sleep apnea is a condition often associated with men, new research reveals that many women also have the disorder, especially those who are obese or have high blood pressure.
Sleep apnea causes frequent pauses in breathing during sleep, and rates of the condition increase as people age.
For the study, researchers from Uppsala University and Umea University in Sweden surveyed 400 women, aged 20 and older. The women also underwent a sleep study.
Half of the women showed signs of obstructive sleep apnea, the investigators found. Of the women with high blood pressure (also called hypertension), 80 percent suffered from sleep apnea. Meanwhile, 84 percent of the obese women examined had the disorder.
Among obese women 55 to 70 years old, 31 percent experienced severe sleep apnea.
"We were very surprised to find such a high occurrence of sleep apnea in women, as it is traditionally thought of as a male disorder," study lead author Karl Franklin said in a news release from the European Lung Foundation. "These findings suggest that clinicians should be particularly aware of the association between sleep apnea and obesity and hypertension, in order to identify patients who could also be suffering from the sleeping disorder."
The study was published online Aug. 16 ahead of print in the European Respiratory Journal.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides more information on sleep apnea.