1 in 2 people diagnosed with Sleep Apnea are women.
We can all imagine the stereotype of the hefty male snorer. Picture John Goodman from Roseanne shaking the house with each rumbling breathe. Easy right? Now, if we swap out John Goodman with Jennifer Anniston, all of a sudden our brains have a disconnect. Why is that? Stereotypes are powerful forces in society, but they rarely, if ever, reflect real life. The reality is, women suffer from sleep apnea and grapple with the tedious symptoms that come with it. We’re here to break down some old beliefs and talk about a CPAP product specifically made with females in mind, the ResMed 10 For Her.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, it’s important to understand how this whole John Goodman stereotype came about. Historically, physicians have had a predefined image of the type of patient who would get diagnosed with sleep apnea. That patient tended to be a middle-aged and overweight male. This means that when women would come in with certain symptoms, the doctor often wasn’t thinking in terms of sleep apnea. Proof of this can be seen in earlier studies of sleep apnea where for every 8-9 men diagnosed only 1 woman was. However, we now know that ratio is closer to 3:1. To add to this, women also tend to display different symptoms than men. While men commonly report the classic snoring and breathing pauses throughout the night, women can experience more day time symptoms, such as morning headaches, fatigue, mood swings, and general insomnia. A few decades of that and now we can’t even imagine someone like Rachel Green putting on a CPAP mask after a day of Central Perk hanging. Thankfully, the Medical community and manufacturers are realizing how much they have overlooked women and sleep apnea. Because of this, we now have the first CPAP machine, as well as a line of CPAP masks, that was made specifically for her.
Let’s start with the unit itself, the ResMed 10 For Her. This is the first and only CPAP machine made specifically for females. It features a beautiful ivy leaf floral design, showing that CPAP machine doesn’t have to be this cold, unfeeling box. It can be personal and expressive! I mean, it is a part of your daily life. We all love to decorate our houses, cars and even our phones. Why wouldn’t we decorate our CPAP machine too? Beyond its visual design, the ResMed 10 For Her also boasts a new and unique algorithm just for women. As we discussed, a female’s nightly symptoms may not be as severe and drastic as a male’s. With this new algorithm, the machine’s sensitivity to your breathing is increased dramatically. Most CPAP machines will monitor three disrupted breaths before adjusting air pressure, usually by around 3 cmwp (centimeters of water pressure). However, the ResMed 10 For Her monitors you breath by breath. Once an obstructed breath is detected, the machine goes right into action, changing its air pressure by nearly the same amount as traditional machines with just one faulty breath (around 2.5 cmwp). For those looking for more subtle shifts, the machine comes with a “soft” mode that is just as sensitive to your breathing but makes more fine-tuned adjustments.
Since men have been disproportionately diagnosed over the years, masks have been disproportionately designed for men’s facial structure. These can be generally uncomfortable for women to use, or more seriously, can cause air leakage throughout the night since the masks don’t always fit women properly. Female CPAP masks are smaller, lighter and are modeled after common facial features of women. These design changes addressed the biggest problem with females using male masks, air leakage. With a more compact and light-weight design, these masks fit comfortably on your face and keep the air where it’s supposed to be going, in you! With masks ranging from nasal only for heavy nose breathers, nose and mouth coverage for the classic fit and nasal pillow masks for those looking for a minimalist design, there really is a choice for everyone’s individual wants and needs. Not to mention the masks come with colored straps (CPAP can be expressive, see!).
Decades of misdiagnosis and stereotypes have clouded the reality of sleep apnea and women. Now that this has been recognized, diagnosis and treatment are following suit with new and personalized treatments that work for every CPAP user, from Goodman to Anniston and everyone in between.
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