Sleep disorders affect women differently than they affect men and may have different manifestations and prevalences. With regard to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), variations in symptoms may cause misdiagnoses and delay of appropriate treatment. The prevalence of OSA appears to increase markedly after the time of menopause. Although OSA as defined by the numbers of apneas/hypopneas may be less severe in women, its consequences are similar and perhaps worse. Therapeutic issues related to gender should be factored into the management of OSA. The prevalence of insomnia is significantly greater in women than in men throughout most of the life span. The ratio of insomnia in women to men is approximately 1.4:1.0, but the difference is minimal before puberty and increases steadily with age. Although much of the higher prevalence of insomnia in women may be attributable to the hormonal or psychological changes associated with major life transitions, some of the gender differences may result from the higher prevalence of depression and pain in women. Insomnia's negative impact on quality of life is important to address in women, given the high relative prevalence of insomnia as well as the comorbid disorders in this population. Gender differences in etiology and symptom manifestation in narcolepsy remain understudied in humans. There is little available scientific information to evaluate the clinical significance and specific consequences of the diagnosis of narcolepsy in women. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is characterized by an urge to move the legs or other limbs during periods of rest or inactivity and may affect as much as 10% of the population. This condition is more likely to afflict women than men, and its risk is increased by pregnancy. Although RLS is associated with impaired quality of life, highly effective treatment is available.
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