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Sleep apnea in women veterans: results of a national survey of VA health care users.

Martin JL, Carlson G, Kelly M, Fung CH, Song Y, Mitchell MN, Zeidler MR, Josephson KR, Badr MS, Zhu R, Alessi CA, Washington DL, Yano EM. Sleep apnea in women veterans: results of a national survey of VA health care users. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. 2021 Mar 1; 17(3):555-565.

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STUDY OBJECTIVES: The goals of this study were to estimate rates of undiagnosed, diagnosed, and treated sleep apnea in women veterans and to identify factors associated with diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea in this population. METHODS: A large nationwide postal survey was sent to a random sample of 4,000 women veterans who had received health care at a Veterans Health Administration (VA) facility in the previous 6 months. A total of 1,498 surveys were completed. Survey items used for the current analyses included: demographics; sleep apnea risk, diagnostic status, and treatment; symptoms of other sleep disorders (eg, insomnia); mental health symptoms; and comorbidities. RESULTS: Among responders, 13% of women reported a prior sleep apnea diagnosis. Among women who reported a diagnosis of sleep apnea, 65% reported using positive airway pressure therapy. A sleep apnea diagnosis was associated with older age, higher BMI, non-Hispanic African American/Black racial/ethnic identity, being unemployed, other sleep disorder symptoms (eg, insomnia), depression and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and multimorbidity. Among women without a sleep apnea diagnosis, 43% scored as "high risk" on the STOP (snoring, tiredness, observed apneas, blood pressure) questionnaire. High risk scores were associated with older age, higher BMI, African American/Black identity, other sleep disorder symptoms (eg, insomnia), mental health symptoms, and multimorbidity. Only BMI differed between women using vs not using positive airway pressure therapy. CONCLUSIONS: Women veterans with diagnosed sleep apnea were commonly treated with positive airway pressure therapy, which is standard first-line treatment; however, many undiagnosed women were at high risk. Efforts to increase screening, diagnosis, and treatment of sleep apnea in women with comorbid mental and physical health conditions are needed.

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