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Thorax. 1994 Jul;49(7):699-702.

Effect of short-term hormone replacement in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea in postmenopausal women.

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Sleep Disorders Centre, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.



Women appear to be increasingly susceptible to snoring and sleep disordered breathing after the menopause. This observation, coupled with the considerable sex difference in sleep apnoea, may be explained on the basis of a protective effect of female hormones. This study was carried out to determine whether hormone replacement therapy has a role in the management of obstructive sleep apnoea in postmenopausal women.


The effect of short-term (mean (SE) 50 (3) days) hormone replacement therapy with either oestrogen alone or in combination with progesterone on sleep disordered breathing was investigated in 15 postmenopausal women with moderate obstructive sleep apnoea. The effect of treatment on the ventilatory response to hypoxia and hypercapnia was assessed in 10 patients.


There was no reduction in the clinical severity of obstructive sleep apnoea after hormone treatment despite an increase in the serum oestrogen level from 172 (23) to 322 (33) pmol/l. There was a small but clinically insignificant reduction in the apnoea/hypopnoea index during REM sleep from 58 (6) to 47 (7). There was no difference in response between the oestrogen only group and the oestrogen plus progesterone group. Hypercapnic ventilatory responsiveness did not change with hormone treatment, but an change with hormone treatment, but an increase in hypoxic ventilatory responsiveness was observed.


These data indicate that short-term hormone replacement is unlikely to have an effective role in the clinical management of postmenopausal women with obstructive sleep apnoea. The observed reduction in the apnoea/hypopnoea index during REM sleep, however, suggests that longer term treatment, or the use of higher doses, may have an effect.

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