• Health & Wellness

    Women’s Wellness: Are women with hot flashes at risk of sleep apnea?

a man and a woman in bed, the man is sleeping, the woman is awake and appears concerned, perhaps suffering from insomniaMenopausal symptoms can be annoying, but did you ever think they could be life-threatening? A Mayo Clinic study found some common menopausal symptoms may be linked to obstructive sleep apnea — a condition that can lead to serious health issues, including increased risks of coronary heart diseasehigh blood pressure and stroke.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (1:00) is in the downloads. Read the script.

Hot flashes and night sweats. Many menopausal women get them. These women also face an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea.

"That’s when you stop breathing at night, and that is a risk factor for heart disease," says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, director of Mayo Clinic's Office of Women’s Health.

Dr. Faubion says sleep apnea has been thought of as a man’s disease because symptoms like loud snoring are more noticeable in men. Women’s symptoms – insomnia, headache, night sweats, fatigue, depression and anxiety – are often atypical.

"Women need to understand that it may not be that they’re just sweating at night. They may also have a true sleep disorder."

Dr. Faubion says there is treatment.  "The most effective treatment option for hot flashes and night sweats is what we call menopausal hormone therapy or estrogen-based therapy."

And she says obstructive sleep apnea also can be treated, so it’s important for women to get the right diagnosis.