Mercy's Dr. Audrey Liu Discusses Women and Sleep Apnea

May 22, 2017


Obstructive sleep apnea can be a potentially dangerous health condition when a person actually stops breathing while sleeping.

For women, the symptoms can be much less obvious than loud snoring.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 25 percent of American women are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea, also known as OSA. Many women do not even know they have it as their symptoms are often less obvious then those of men.

According to Dr. Audrey Liu, Director of The Sleep Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD, and board certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Disease and Sleep Medicine, hormones are a risk factor for women when it comes to obstructive sleep apnea.

“Often they have symptoms that don't really suggest sleep apnea,” Dr. Liu said. “They may be more vague or general and these symptoms include fatigue, depression, frequent awakenings, and morning headaches.

“In women it seems to be related to hormones, so there is definitely an increased risk during pregnancy as well as with menopause.”

Patients suspected of having sleep apnea come to the sleep lab at Mercy Medical Center in search of a diagnosis. The lab may look like a hotel room, but it is far from that. Patients are hooked up to monitors that read things like respiration and brain waves.

Christian Bowman is a sleep lab technician. He observes what happens while the patient sleeps, but first tries to make them feel at home.

“(I) try to get them comfortable, get them relaxed, explain to them the whole process, and by the end of it, I'm just going to sit back and watch you guys sleep and be jealous all night and they laugh,” Bowman said.

According to Bowman, one night sleeping at the lab can make a huge difference in the quality of sleep you get for the rest of your life.

To view Dr. Audrey Liu’s interview regarding women and sleep apnea, click here.


About Mercy

Founded in 1874 in Downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed, acute care, university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a high-performing Maryland hospital (U.S. News & World Report); has achieved an overall 5-Star quality, safety, and patient experience rating (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services); is A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade); and is certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet™ hospital. Mercy Health Services is a not-for-profit health system and the parent company of Mercy Medical Center and Mercy Personal Physicians.

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