As witnesses to their loved ones’ snoring, women have historically proved valuable to your practice by encouraging their husbands and boyfriends to visit sleep specialists. But have you ever thought to ask these women about their own sleep concerns?

In a climate where every new patient could be the critical difference between profit and loss, there has never been a better time to market sleep medicine services to women.

Several recently published studies emphasize the urgent need for women to receive treatment for sleep disorders. Two studies found the cardiovascular consequences for females who suffer from poor sleep to be worse than for their male counterparts. Researchers at the University of South Florida found that pregnant women with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are more than five times more likely to die in the hospital than those without OSA. Plus, a new study shows that sleep issues during pregnancy can reach beyond the woman to her child. The study found that poor-quality sleep during the third trimester can increase the odds of weight gain in offspring once they reach adulthood.

With these serious risks, you may be wondering why women aren’t knocking down your sleep center’s doors. It may be because they aren’t aware you exist. Duane Johnson, PhD, an advisory team member of Sleep Center Management Institute, said physicians outside of sleep medicine, such as OB-GYNs, won’t necessarily ask their patients about sleep because they don’t know where to refer patients when there is a problem. At the spring 2014 FOCUS Conference, Johnson suggested reaching out to specialists in untapped markets and asking for their patients to complete quick sleep questionnaires (such as the STOP-BANG). The patients whose results raise red flags are then ideally referred to you.

Robyn Woidtke, RN, RPSGT, also addressed opportunities in women’s sleep during FOCUS. “Some women develop restless legs syndrome during pregnancy,” Woidtke says. “We need to educate OB-GYNs about this.” And women with the common disorder polycystic ovary syndrome may not be aware that they are more likely to develop sleep apnea. Is your practice ensuring they know the warning signs?

Women past their reproductive years also have unique sleep risks. After menopause, the ratio of OSA becomes 1:1 men to women, versus 2:1 before menopause, Woidtke said in her talk. Hot flashes and night sweats during menopause also may affect sleep, plus insomnia may arise from hormonal changes.

To tap into the women’s sleep market, develop a targeted marketing plan. It might include distributing fliers in OB-GYNs’ waiting rooms, doing a question and answer session about sleep concerns in a Lamaze class, or writing an article for a parenting magazine about how to handle postbaby sleep deprivation. Whatever marketing strategy you use, reach out. Women are waiting.

Sree Roy is editor of Sleep Review. E-mail her at [email protected]