Women With Severe Hot Flashes At Higher Risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Stephanie S. Faubion, MD, FACP, NCMP, IF
Director, Executive and International Medicine
Director, Office of Women’s Health
Associate Professor of Medicine
Division of General Internal Medicine 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The Data Registry on Experiences of Aging, Menopause and Sexuality (DREAMS) was used for this study investigating the association between vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats) and risk for obstructive sleep apnea, a common and underdiagnosed sleep disorder in women which is associated with increased cardiovascular risk.

We found that Women who had severe or very severe hot flashes or night sweats were more likely to be at increased risk for obstructive sleep apnea.  This association held even after adjusting for age, body mass index, smoking and hypertension, such that the odds of women having intermediate /high risk for obstructive sleep apnea were 1.87 times higher for those with severe/very severe hot flashes/night sweats compared to those with less severe symptoms.  We decided to analyze the group of women with normal body mass index, and indeed, this finding was still significant in the lean group of women.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Several takeaways should be noted.

First, obstructive sleep apnea is a common, under-diagnosed problem in women.  Hot flashes and night sweats are also very common in peri- and postmenopausal women, and there may be an association between the two.  Also important to note is that hot flashes/night sweats and obstructive sleep apnea have been independently associated with heart disease risk.  Now we are seeing an association between the two.

Women and clinicians should be aware that bothersome menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats are associated with obstructive sleep apnea, and rather than ignoring these symptoms as something to simply be tolerated, evaluation for a serious sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea should be considered. Understanding how to better assess cardiovascular disease risk in women is critical, and understanding some of the female-specific risks, such as those encountered by midlife women, will help us improve the health and well-being of women.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We plan to continue investigating the association between menopausal symptoms and sleep disorders going forward.  As both vasomotor symptoms and obstructive sleep apnea are associated with cardiovascular risk in women, we need to determine how best to identify who is at risk and who isn’t.  Improving the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea in women is a start. 

No disclosures associated with this study

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Gao, Catherine C. BA; Kapoor, Ekta MBBS; Lipford, Melissa C. MD; Miller, Virginia M. MBA, PhD; Schroeder, Darrell R. MSc; Mara, Kristin C. MS; Faubion, Stephanie S. MD. Association of vasomotor symptoms and sleep apnea risk in midlife women. Menopause, November 2017 DOI: 1097/GME.0000000000001020

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on November 9, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD