Young Fit Female Syndrome (UARS): What is it? And how does it differ from Sleep Apnea?

May 9, 2022

Young Fit Female Syndrome (UARS): What is it? And how does it differ from Sleep Apnea?

Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) is a sleep disorder that could be the reason for your fitful sleep and daytime tiredness. This is often presented in young, fit, females.

As I refer to it, ‘Young Fit Female Syndrome’, UARS commonly impacts younger, healthy women. This sleep disorder often is identified when patients find themselves having restless sleep that leaves them feeling unrefreshed in the morning.

With UARS, once the airway narrows and there is resistance to airflow, the body will “arouse” (coming out of deep sleep) causing a person to move or become restless so that it can get in the best position for good airflow…essentially, the body is so sensitive to this impending suffocation, that it wakes you up.
It’s like a little stranger pushing you awake all throughout the night, saying, “wake up—you’re suffocating” so you never actually get any restful sleep.
This causes a continued stress on the body which stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system—and as this happens over and over, you’re in a constant state of “fight or flight” leaving you more prone to anxiety, depression, cold hands and feet, GI issues (irritable bowels), dizziness, fainting. It also leaves you more susceptible to chronic pain, chronic muscle aches and chronic headaches or migraines.

Here are a few key indicators that what you’re struggling with could be Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS).

  • Tossing and turning all night.
  • Chronic sleep disturbance (insomnia).
  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep.
  • Waking up feeling unrefreshed in the morning.
  • Frequent awakenings throughout the night.
  • Anxiety.
  • Constant fatigue.

UARS is caused by a partially collapsed, or narrowing airway that leads to restricted breathing, and also the positioning of the tongue.

What are the differences between Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome and Sleep Apnea?

While there are clearly similarities and connections between UARS and OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea), there are also some identifiable differences.  The main difference is that UARS patients rarely or never experience the pauses or decreases in breathing that are present in OSA patients. Obesity is a common concern in those with OSA, but people with UARS are generally of average weight.  UARS can affect anyone of any ethnicity or gender; however, OSA is far more common in Caucasian men.

If UARS is a concern, then lifestyle and behavior changes should be considered first. Practicing good sleep hygiene, eating a proper diet, and getting a good amount of exercise will go a long way to reducing symptoms.  Further, there are dental oral appliances that can be used to keep the airways open.  These are often recommended along with the above-mentioned lifestyle and behavioral changes.

Despite the UARS being different from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), but is not less severe and should still be treated seriously! It is important to know that UARS will eventually progress to OSA if left untreated.

If you’ve got UARS and you’re looking for relief, reach out, book your appointment with Dr. Jocelyne Charest (TMJ & Sleep disorders Expert) and treat your UARS or your OSA!