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Gender differences in Saudi patients with obstructive sleep apnea


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) remains under-recognized in women possibly due to differences in clinical presentation, difference in tolerance to symptoms, and rate of usage and referral to sleep services. No reports have addressed OSA in women in the Middle Eastern (Arab) population. Therefore, we conducted this study to assess the differences in demographics, clinical presentation, and polysomnographic (PSG) findings between Saudi women and men diagnosed to have (OSA). The study group comprised 191 consecutive Saudi women and 193 consecutive men who were referred to the Sleep Disorders Centre and were found by in-laboratory PSG to have OSA. Demographic and clinical data were obtained by personal interviews. Women were significantly older than men (53.9 and 43.0 years, respectively; p < 0.001). Similarly, their body mass index was significantly higher than men (p < 0.001). Insomnia was more common among women (39.8%) compared to men (25.9%; p = 0.005). Other sleep symptoms including witnessed apnea, and excessive daytime sleepiness did not show any statistical difference between the two groups. Women were more likely than men to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism, diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease, and asthma. Apnea–hypopnea index (AHI) was statistically higher in men compared to women; however, most of apnea/hypopnea events in women occurred during rapid eye movement sleep, and the mean duration of hypopnea and apnea was significantly lower in women (p = 0.004). Sleep efficiency was lower in women (71.5% vs. 77.7%) in men (p < 0.001). The desaturation index was higher in men (p = 0.01), but no difference was found in lowest SaO2 or time with SaO2 less than 90%. The present study showed important clinical and PSG differences between Saudi women and men with OSA. Clinicians need to be aware of these differences when assessing women for the possibility of OSA as they may be symptomatic at a lower AHI and have significant comorbid conditions that can be adversely affected if their OSA was not timely managed.

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Correspondence to Ahmed BaHammam.

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Alotair, H., BaHammam, A. Gender differences in Saudi patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep Breath 12, 323–329 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11325-008-0184-8

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  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Woman
  • Gender
  • Polysomnography