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J Clin Sleep Med. 2009 Dec 15;5(6):512-8.

Gender differences in obstructive sleep apnea and treatment response to continuous positive airway pressure.

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Boston College School of Nursing, Chestnut Hill, MA, USA.



Whether gender differences exist in clinical manifestations of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and whether women's responses to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) are similar to those of men are critical areas of exploration in sleep disordered breathing. This exploratory analysis addressed these questions by examining gender differences over a wide range of clinical outcomes at baseline and in response to CPAP in participants with severe OSA.


Data from 152 men and 24 women who participated in a multicenter CPAP effectiveness study were analyzed. Gender differences in functional status (functional outcomes of sleep questionnaire, sickness impact profile), daytime sleepiness (epworth sleepiness scale, multiple sleep latency test), mood disturbance (profile of mood states), apnea symptoms (multivariable apnea prediction index), and neurobehavioral performance (psychomotor vigilance task) were examined. Treatment response was examined by the change in each outcome from baseline to 3 months after treatment.


Despite similar age, body mass index, and apnea-hypopnea index, women reported significantly lower functional status, more subjective daytime sleepiness, higher frequency of apnea symptoms, more mood disturbance, and poorer neurobehavioral performance compared to men at baseline. CPAP treatment significantly improved functional status and relieved symptoms for both genders. The magnitude of improvement in each clinical outcome did not vary by gender.


Women with OSA showed greater impairment in daytime functioning and symptoms than men. Both genders benefit from CPAP treatment. Adequately powered studies considering possible referral and response bias are necessary to examine gender differences in OSA clinical manifestations and response to CPAP treatment.

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