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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Sleep Choices and Women’s Health: Learn how to experience deep, restful sleep, from the physicians at Koala Center for Sleep Disorders.

Apr 30, 2016 11:47AM ● By Dr. Shari Aftahi and Dr. Beth Hamann

For some, sleep deprivation is not a choice. They desperately want sleep, but their sleep is not deep, restful or rejuvenating. Research has found that poor sleep in women is related to increased psychological distress and an elevated risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Women sleeping poorly also tend to experience feelings of hostility, depression and anger.

As well, the fluctuation of sex hormones throughout a woman’s life and the resulting effect of sleep disordered breathing in women are closely related. Progesterone is a hormone that is used in many ways by the body. It affects reproduction, mood, appetite, brain function and sexual activity. Progesterone also induces sleep and acts as a respiratory stimulant that keeps the body breathing during sleep.

Sex hormones influence our sleep/wake cycles, or circadian rhythms; regulate sleep in menstruation and pregnancy; and affect sleep in the peri- and post-menopausal stages of a woman’s life. Understanding the role that female sex hormones play in a woman’s sleep pattern is crucial to her health and well-being. If she is experiencing sleep-disordered breathing, diagnosis and treatment is a choice she can make toward healthy sleep and increased enjoyment of life.

Sleep disordered breathing is a serious health problem, and its first appearance is usually indicated by snoring. When we fall asleep and our bodies relax, our lower jaw, tongue and tissues in the back of the throat become infirm and may collapse into the narrow opening of the airway. When air struggles to make its way through these relaxed structures, snoring is the result.

Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) is marked by greater loss of tissue firmness than snoring. Those suffering from UARS are generally young and female, and may also experience gastro-esophageal reflux disorder and/or asthma. Depression and hormonal imbalances are also common in those with UARS. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the airway becomes completely blocked. The sleeper is involuntarily holding their breath and completely stopping the flow of oxygen to the body. This is when serious, life-threatening problems start. Untreated, OSA has been associated with heart disease, unexplained high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and death during sleep. The sleeper may wake with their heart racing, often choking or gasping for breath. Persons with OSA are more prone to illness, injury and increased risk of cancer.

Those experiencing symptoms of sleep disordered breathing have a choice of options including continuous positive airway pressure treatment, surgery and oral appliance therapy. The purpose of the oral appliance is to prevent the jaw from falling back toward the throat and maintain a position that allows the airway to remain as open and firm as possible during sleep. It is covered by most medical insurance and Medicare.

Dr. Beth Hamann and Dr. Shari Aftahi have 50 years of combined experience in dentistry. For more information, contact Koala Center for Sleep Disorders – Biltmore, in Phoenix, at 602-883-1931 or visit

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