They say that “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.”
In less flowery language: look for the obvious option before more unlikely possibilities. In general, this is a good philosophy to uphold (Occam would agree), but it can — and has — left many younger, fit females utterly neglected regarding their sleep health.
What is UARS?
Upper airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS), commonly referred to as Young, Fit Female Syndrome, is a condition that carries many similarities to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in that the soft tissue of the throat relaxes, reduces the size of the airway, and results in sleep disturbances and consequent daytime impairment, including excessive daytime sleepiness.
Is UARS the same as sleep apnea?
Although the increase in upper airway resistance is not enough to meet criteria of the sleep disordered breathing that define OSA, the resulting increase in breathing effort causes a brief awakening from sleep that is often undetected by the affected individual. When this scenario repeats throughout the night, sleep is impaired, just like in obstructive sleep apnea.
Why does UARS often go undiagnosed?
Since women usually have an airway that is less prone than that of men to fully collapse, they are less likely to wake up gasping for air. This nearly eliminates the chances of “witnessed apneas,” when a partner notices a cessation of breathing, which is generally a tell-tale sign of sleep disordered breathing. Unfortunately, this further decreases the chances of a proper diagnosis.
So, back to those horses and zebras. Obstructive Sleep Apnea has long been thought of as an overweight man’s disorder. Meaning, when a woman (especially a younger fit woman) comes to her doctor with concerns of a sleep disorder, she may not be given the proper diagnostics like a sleep study to find the underlying issue. OSA may be completely off the table in her doctor’s mind and the symptoms of UARS may not appear “severe” enough for her to receive insurance coverage of CPAP therapy. She is a zebra in a sea of horses.
How do you treat UARS?
Thankfully, with the massive strides in telehealth and telemedicine, we can now provide CPAP therapy at an affordable price without insurance.* From diagnosis with the WatchPAT ONE disposable at-home sleep test, your CPAP prescription, all the way to CPAP machines, cpap masks, and cpap supplies — anyone can now take their sleep health into their own hands and get the proper sleep therapy that they need.
If you are a woman who suspects you may be a sleep zebra, we urge you to contact us with any questions or concerns regarding your sleep health — or, just jump right in and get yourself an at-home sleep test today.
Empower yourself by being your own sleep health advocate. Plus, who wants to be a horse when you can be a zebra?!