Women's Health

The Possible Relation Between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

The Possible Relation Between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

How is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) associated with difficulty sleeping? It may seem as if they are completely different health issues, but there is scientific evidence that confirms a connection between the two.

In women of pre-menopausal age, polycystic ovary syndrome is a common endocrine disorder. It can cause serious metabolic and cardiovascular conditions due to hormonal imbalance. Over time, numerous cysts develop and grow in the ovaries. Usually, these cysts are benign. However, they may affect the body by causing changes in hormone production.

Women with PCOS experience an increase in their testosterone levels, and this can lead to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Obesity further increases the risk and can develop in women with PCOS. OSA may also occur due to low levels of progesterone. Women suffering from PCOS may have breathing difficulties because of low levels of this hormone. Studies have revealed that the risk of developing OSA increases 30-fold in women with PCOS.

With PCOS, blood sugar levels are not regulated by the body, causing greater production of insulin, which in turn can increase testosterone levels. Obesity can develop through insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Certain levels of fats are also altered in PCOS: the LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol level may increase, and the HDL, or “good,” cholesterol level may decrease. Thus, the risk of cardiovascular disease goes up. This includes coronary artery disease and high blood pressure. The condition may also affect mental health, as well as cause skin problems, unwanted weight gain, unsuccessful pregnancies, and excessive body hair growth. PCOS is very common in women of childbearing age. The cause is still unclear, but it is thought that the risk is higher in those with a family history of PCOS. 

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the body takes one or more pauses in breathing during sleep, or shallow breathing may occur. OSA causes a variety of symptoms due to poor intake of oxygen, such as restlessness, insomnia, and loud snoring. Due to lack of sleep, daytime sleepiness may occur, making it difficult for a person to complete any tasks. OSA can cause concentration and memory problems due to lack of oxygen, and, over time, high blood pressure and sexual dysfunction may occur as well.

Recognizing PCOS:

  • Irregular periods: The condition causes irregularity in a woman’s menstrual cycle, making it difficult to rely on the calendar. This can cause fertility problems. Some may even have excessive or prolonged periods. This can further cause anemia or low iron levels. A range of health issues can be triggered due to this, such as depression, fatigue, and irregular heart rhythm.
  • High blood androgens: PCOS causes the overproduction of the male sex hormone androgen in affected women. Testosterone may be overproduced as well, and this can cause abnormal hair growth, acne, etc. Estrogen levels may also be low.
  • Ultrasonography: Cysts on the ovaries can be revealed through ultrasounds.

Scientists believe there may be a genetic link related to PCOS, so it is recommended that women attend regular check-ups with their gynecologist. The condition can be better managed if it is detected early, and the prevalence of OSA can be lessened by controlling PCOS.