Low hormone levels linked to sleep apnoea risk among postmenopausal women

Jun 23, 2022
The authors of the study concluded that adjusting female sex hormones could be effective in decreasing the high prevalence and associated morbidity of obstructive sleep apnea. Source: Getty Images.

A new study from the University of Bergen has discovered that postmenopausal women with low levels of estrogen and progesterone are more likely to snore and experience obstructive sleep apnoea.

As part of the Female sex hormones and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea in European women of a population-based cohort study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, researchers analysed data from 774 women aged 40 to 67 across seven countries in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey between 2010 and 2012. Participants answered questions regarding their respiratory health, women’s health factors, lifestyle and sleep, and provided blood samples for hormone analysis.

Researchers found that of 551 women in the study (71.2 per cent) who had been told they snored, 411 of those women also reported other symptoms of sleep apnoea. Among all women, a doubling of serum concentrations of estrone was associated with a 19 per cent decrease in the odds of snoring. A doubling of progesterone levels was associated with a 9 per cent decrease in the odds of snoring.

Among snorers, a doubling of the concentrations of three estrogens (17β-estradiol, estrone and estrone 3-sulfate) was associated with 17 per cent to 23 per cent decrease in the odds of women being told they breathe irregularly during sleep. While a doubling of progesterone concentration, among those who snored, was associated with 12 per cent decrease in the odds of participants waking up with a choking sensation in the previous year.

From these findings, the authors of the study concluded that adjusting female sex hormones could be effective in decreasing the high prevalence and associated morbidity of obstructive sleep apnoea, but stressed that further study is necessary to confirm the findings.

“Female sex hormones are crucial for health and disease, and especially after menopause the hormone status should be considered to develop holistic treatment strategies,” the authors of the study claimed.

According to the Sleep Foundation, “snoring happens when air cannot flow freely through the airway as you breathe in and out during sleep”, causing the tissues of the upper airway to vibrate and create the peculiar sound.

The 2022 Annual Global Sleep and Snoring report shed light on the physical and mental impact of snoring, while revealing that of the 2000 Australians surveyed, 49 per cent admitted to snoring while 51 per cent accused their partner of snoring.

Men were the biggest culprits making up 56 per cent of snorers compared to 43 per cent of women.

More alarmingly the study revealed 29 per cent of Australians said snoring disturbed their sleep, with those surveyed losing 2.9 nights of sleep to snoring per week.


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Respiratory and sleep physician, and founder of Manse Medical, Dr Andrew Bradbeer said snoring can certainly become an issue and even increase the likelihood of inheriting other concerning health conditions

“At its most severe, snoring becomes obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).  People with obstructive sleep apnea have periods of time where they just cannot get enough air past the floppy muscles of their throat when they are asleep. This becomes much more likely in mid-life and older adults. Obstructive sleep apnea, if present, is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and memory problems,” he explained

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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