Reena Mehra, MD, MS: Sex-Specific Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Differences


The director of the Sleep Disorders Research Program at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine provided her perspective on the differences in OSA prevalence for men and women.

“Men are 2 to 5 times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea compared to women. [But,] as women get perimenopausal, our risk for obstructive sleep apnea increases.”

Underdiagnosis is a major challenge for physicians who treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). An additional challenge is that men are highly more likely to be diagnosed with the condition, and as a whole, are often painted as the picture of the standard patient with OSA, as Reena Mehra, MD, MS, director, Sleep Disorders Research Program, and professor of medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, points out.

Although, as individuals age, the differences in the prevalence of OSA is rather small between men and women, with women having an increased risk of developing it during the perimenopausal period of their life. While differences in the upper airway, the distribution of fat, and respiratory stability have been observed, proportionally fewer women receive the diagnosis, and in an underdiagnosed population to begin with, this may imply a large unattended group.1

There are limited data that suggest that although prevalence and severity differ, the consequences of the disease are comparable. Despite a lack of research, many believe personalized approaches would provide optimized care. In a conversation with NeurologyLive, Mehra provided her perspective on the differences in OSA prevalence for men and women.


1. Wimms A, Woehrle H, Ketheeswaran S, Ramanan D, Armistead J. Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Women: Specific Issues and Interventions. Biomed Res Int. 2016:1764837. doi: 10.1155/2016/1764837.

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