How Many People Have Sleep Apnea – Statistics

Sleep disorders like sleep apnea are more prevalent in U.S. adults than you might think. Roughly 6 million Americans have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but in reality, this sleep disorder is thought to affect 30 million people in the U.S. Older adults are much more likely to have sleep apnea than younger people, with 56% of people age 65 and older at a high risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea. Additionally, as many as 80% of people with OSA are undiagnosed. Globally, an estimated 936 million adults have mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea.

Key Takeaways – How Many People Have Sleep Apnea?

  • Approximately 30 million Americans have sleep apnea, but only 6 million have been diagnosed.
  • 56% of people age 65 and older are at a high risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.
  • As many as 80% of people with OSA are undiagnosed.
  • Globally, an estimated 936 million adults have mild to severe OSA.

Types of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder, can be classified into two main types: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). Understanding the differences between these types is essential for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA):

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most prevalent form, affecting millions of individuals worldwide. It occurs when the upper airway becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep, leading to interrupted breathing. The blockage can be caused by various factors, including excess weight, anatomical abnormalities, or muscle relaxation during sleep.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA):

Central sleep apnea is less common than OSA and is characterized by a failure of the brain to send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Unlike OSA, where there is physical obstruction, CSA is primarily a neurological issue. It can occur as a result of various conditions, such as heart failure, stroke, or brainstem disorders.

Sleep Apnea Definition:

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. These breathing interruptions can last for a few seconds to a minute and can occur multiple times throughout the night. The disruptions can significantly impact sleep quality and overall well-being.

The Prevalence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea:

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most commonly diagnosed type of sleep apnea, accounting for the majority of cases. It is estimated that approximately 26% of Americans between the ages of 30 and 70 have OSA, highlighting the significant impact and widespread nature of this condition.

How many people have sleep apnea

Factors Influencing Sleep Apnea Development

Sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep, can be influenced by several factors. Age, gender, and weight play significant roles in the development of sleep apnea.

  • Age: The risk of sleep apnea increases with age, particularly between the ages of 30 and 70. Older adults are more likely to develop sleep apnea compared to younger individuals.
  • Gender: Men are more prone to sleep apnea than women. In fact, men have a two to four times higher risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
  • Weight: Obesity and excess weight are major risk factors for sleep apnea. The extra weight can contribute to the narrowing of the airway, making it more difficult to breathe during sleep.

Aside from age, gender, and weight, there are other factors that can increase the likelihood of developing sleep apnea:

  • Hypothyroidism: Underactive thyroid function can contribute to sleep apnea.
  • Family history: Having a family member with sleep apnea can increase the risk of developing the disorder.
  • Menopause: Hormonal changes during menopause can make women more susceptible to sleep apnea.
  • Heart or kidney failure: People with heart or kidney problems are at higher risk of developing sleep apnea.
  • Alcohol consumption and smoking: Alcohol and smoking can relax the muscles in the throat, making it easier for the airway to become blocked.
  • Facial and neck characteristics: Certain facial and neck features, such as large tonsils or a recessed chin, can contribute to sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea can affect individuals of all ages, but it is more common in older adults and overweight individuals. Understanding these risk factors can help identify those who may be at higher risk and take appropriate measures to manage their sleep apnea.

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

To diagnose sleep apnea, individuals undergo a sleep study, also known as polysomnography (PSG). This study can be conducted in a sleep clinic or at home using sensors that monitor heart rate, breathing, blood oxygen levels, and brain waves during sleep.

During a sleep study, various parameters are measured to assess the severity of sleep apnea. One of the key indicators is the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). This index represents the number of times breathing is hindered or stopped per hour of sleep.

Sleep apnea screening tests can provide a preliminary assessment of potential sleep apnea, but a formal diagnosis is made through a comprehensive sleep study.

Based on symptoms reported by the patient and the AHI measured during the sleep study, individuals can be diagnosed with different levels of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): mild, moderate, or severe obstructive sleep apnea. The AHI cutoffs defining these levels may vary depending on the sleep clinic or healthcare provider.

The diagnosis of sleep apnea is crucial for establishing appropriate treatment plans and interventions to manage the condition effectively.

Prevalence of Sleep Apnea Over Time

The prevalence of sleep apnea has shown an upward trend in recent years. Studies conducted in 1993 and 2013 provide valuable insights into the changing landscape of sleep apnea statistics over time.

In the 1993 study, it was found that 11% of men and 4% of women had moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). However, when the follow-up study was conducted in 2013, the numbers showed an increase to 14% of men and 5% of women with OSA. These findings highlight a significant 27% increase in the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea among U.S. adults aged 30 to 70 over a span of 20 years.

This rise in sleep apnea prevalence can be attributed to a combination of factors. Improved access to testing and diagnosis has played a crucial role in identifying cases that may have previously gone undetected. Additionally, the average weight of adults in the United States has been steadily increasing, and obesity is a known risk factor for sleep apnea.

These sleep apnea statistics over time emphasize the growing importance of addressing this sleep disorder and its potential impact on public health. By understanding the increasing prevalence of sleep apnea, healthcare professionals can better allocate resources and develop interventions to diagnose, treat, and manage this condition effectively.

Symptoms and Signs of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can have serious consequences if left untreated. Recognizing the symptoms and signs of sleep apnea is crucial for timely intervention and treatment. By understanding the warning signs, individuals can seek medical help and improve their quality of life.

Sleep apnea symptoms can vary from person to person, but some common indicators include:

  • Loud snoring: Up to 94% of individuals with sleep apnea report snoring. It is often disruptive and can disturb the sleep of both the individual with sleep apnea and their bed partner.
  • Gasping for air during sleep: People with sleep apnea may experience episodes where they abruptly wake up gasping for air due to a temporary cessation of breathing.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness: Sleep apnea disrupts the quality of sleep, leading to daytime sleepiness and fatigue. Individuals may struggle to stay awake during the day, affecting their daily activities and productivity.
  • Dry mouth upon waking: Waking up with a dry or sore throat can be a sign of sleep apnea. The blocked airway can cause mouth breathing, leading to dryness.
  • Headaches: Frequent morning headaches can be a consequence of sleep apnea. The interrupted sleep patterns and insufficient oxygen intake can trigger headaches upon waking.
  • Frequent awakening: Individuals with sleep apnea often experience frequent awakening throughout the night. These awakenings may be brief but can disrupt the natural sleep cycle.
  • Feeling irritable or frustrated: The disrupted sleep and constant fatigue associated with sleep apnea can lead to mood changes, irritability, and feelings of frustration.

It is important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other factors or underlying health conditions. A comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional is essential for an accurate diagnosis of sleep apnea. Sleep medicine can also have a large impact on understanding SA better.

Sleep Apnea in Different Age Groups

Sleep apnea can affect individuals of all ages. It is not limited to any specific age group, although certain age ranges may be more susceptible to this sleep disorder. Sleep apnea can be found in both children and older adults, albeit with different prevalence rates and risk factors.

Sleep Apnea in Children

Children can develop obstructive sleep apnea, although it is less common than in adults. The prevalence of sleep apnea in children is estimated to be between 1% and 10%. Certain risk factors increase the likelihood of sleep apnea in children, such as higher weight, medical conditions like cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, and physical blockages such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

Sleep Apnea in Older Adults

Older adults, particularly those aged 50 to 70, are more likely to have a sleep apnea diagnosis. The risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea increases with age, and older adults have a higher prevalence compared to younger age groups. Factors such as decreased muscle tone, changes in airway structure, and increased incidence of comorbidities can contribute to the higher occurrence of sleep apnea in this age group. Elder people tend to also take sleep medicine in order counteract poor sleep habits through aging.

Sleep apnea can have significant health implications regardless of age. It is essential for both children and older adults to receive proper diagnosis and treatment to manage the condition effectively.

Gender Differences in Sleep Apnea

Statistics reveal a significant disparity between men and women when it comes to sleep apnea. According to sleep apnea gender statistics, men have higher rates of sleep apnea compared to women, particularly in the age group of men under 50. However, an interesting shift occurs as women reach the age of 50 and beyond. At this stage, women become almost as likely as men to be diagnosed with sleep apnea.

The reasons behind this gender disparity in sleep apnea prevalence are multifaceted and can be attributed to various factors. Hormonal differences between men and women play a role, as changes in estrogen and progesterone levels can impact sleep patterns and respiratory function. Additionally, anatomical differences, such as variations in upper airway size and structure, can contribute to differing rates of sleep apnea between genders.

Moreover, metabolic differences between men and women also come into play. Men tend to have higher body mass indexes (BMI) and greater neck circumference, which can increase the risk of sleep apnea. However, as women age, hormonal changes and shifts in body composition may contribute to a higher prevalence of sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea and Health Risks

Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can have serious health consequences, increasing the risk of various complications and conditions. It is important to recognize and address the potential health risks associated with this sleep disorder to ensure optimal well-being.


One of the significant health risks linked to sleep apnea is hypertension, or high blood pressure. Studies have shown that individuals with untreated sleep apnea are more likely to develop hypertension, and vice versa. The recurrent interruptions in breathing during sleep can lead to increased blood pressure, putting strain on the cardiovascular system.

Heart Failure and Arrhythmias

Sleep apnea has been associated with a higher risk of heart failure and arrhythmias. The repeated drops in oxygen levels and oxygen deprivation that occur with apnea can negatively impact heart function over time, potentially leading to serious cardiac issues.


Individuals with apnea have an increased risk of stroke. Sleep apnea can contribute to the development of cardiovascular problems, including the formation of blood clots and the narrowing of blood vessels. These factors can significantly raise the likelihood of a stroke occurring.

Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

Untreated obstructive sleep apnea is also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The disruptions in sleep caused by apnea can affect the body’s ability to process glucose and insulin, leading to insulin resistance and an increased likelihood of developing diabetes. Additionally, apnea can contribute to metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by a combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Liver Problems

Sleep apnea has been linked to liver issues, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and elevated liver enzymes. The exact mechanisms behind this connection are not yet fully understood. However, it is believed that the oxidative stress and the metabolic disturbances caused by sleep apnea may contribute to liver damage and inflammation.

Increased Risk of Car Accidents

Among the many side effects of sleep apnea, daytime sleepiness is a significant concern. Individuals with untreated sleep apnea are at a higher risk of drowsy driving and motor vehicle accidents due to the excessive daytime sleepiness caused by poor sleep quality. It is crucial for individuals with sleep apnea to seek treatment to improve their alertness and reduce the risk of accidents.

Changes to Brain Stems

Unaddressed apnea can result in physical and functional changes to the brain stems. These changes can impact the brain’s regulation of respiratory functions, further exacerbating the apnea condition and potentially leading to other complications.

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

When it comes to addressing sleep apnea, there are several treatment options available based on the severity of the condition. It is important to identify the most suitable treatment approach in collaboration with a healthcare professional. The following options are commonly employed:

Lifestyle Modifications

For individuals with mild sleep apnea, lifestyle changes may be recommended. Weight loss, exercise, and adopting healthy sleep habits can help reduce the severity and frequency of sleep apnea episodes.

Sleep medicine can also have an impact here. As alcohol can have an impact on OSA, this is very dangerous in combination with sleep medicine.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Machines

One of the most common and effective treatments for sleep apnea is the use of CPAP machines. These devices deliver a continuous stream of air pressure to keep the airway open during sleep, preventing pauses in breathing. CPAP machines consist of a mask that covers the nose or mouth, a tube, and a machine that generates the required air pressure.

Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP) Machines

Similar to CPAP machines, APAP machines adjust the air pressure automatically based on the individual’s breathing patterns. These devices are ideal for individuals with varying airway pressure requirements throughout the night.

Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs)

MADs are oral appliances that help prevent the collapse of the airway by positioning the jaw forward during sleep. They are custom-made for each individual and can be an effective treatment option for mild to moderate sleep apnea.

Surgical Interventions

In cases where other treatments have been ineffective or if anatomical abnormalities are causing sleep related apnea, surgical interventions may be considered. These procedures aim to modify the structures of the throat or improve airflow.
It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment option based on individual needs and the severity of the condition.

Importance of Sleep Apnea Treatment

Sleep apnea treatment plays a crucial role in reducing the risks and complications associated with the condition. Effective management of sleep apnea can have a positive impact on various aspects of health and well-being.

One of the significant consequences of untreated obstructive sleep related apnea is an increased risk of hypertension or high blood pressure. Individuals with sleep apnea are more likely to develop hypertension, which can further lead to heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications. By addressing sleep apnea, blood pressure levels can be better controlled, reducing the risk of these serious health conditions.

Untreated sleep apnea is also associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes. Studies have shown that individuals with sleep apnea are more likely to develop insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance, increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. By addressing sleep apnea, the risk of developing diabetes can be significantly reduced.
Finally, sleep apnea treatment has been shown to decrease mortality rates. Individuals with untreated sleep apnea are at a higher risk of premature death compared to those receiving appropriate treatment. By ensuring regular use of CPAP therapy or other recommended treatments, individuals can improve their overall health outcomes and reduce the risk of adverse health events.

Sleep Apnea Statistics and Demographics

Sleep apnea is a prevalent condition, affecting a significant number of Americans. Let’s dive into the sleep apnea prevalence and demographics to gain a better understanding of its impact.

Prevalence of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is estimated to affect approximately 30 million Americans. This means that 1 in every 15 Americans suffers from sleep apnea, accounting for around 6.62% of the total U.S. population.

Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea

Despite the high prevalence of severe sleep apnea, a considerable number of cases go undiagnosed. It is estimated that approximately 2-4% of Americans have undiagnosed sleep apnea, indicating a need for increased awareness and screening efforts.

Sleep Apnea and Car Accidents

Sleep apnea poses a significant risk for car accidents, as it can lead to daytime sleepiness and impaired concentration. Drowsy driving is a major contributor to car accidents, resulting in numerous injuries and fatalities each year. Individuals with severe sleep apnea are particularly vulnerable, as studies have shown that they are six times more likely to die in a car accident compared to those without the condition.

Addressing the Risk

Recognizing the link between sleep apnea and car accidents is crucial for improving road safety. Individuals who suspect they may have severe sleep apnea should seek diagnosis and treatment to reduce the risk of drowsy driving. Proper treatment can help alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea, such as daytime sleepiness, improving alertness and concentration while driving.

By addressing the risks associated with sleep apnea and drowsy driving, we can work towards creating safer roads for everyone.

Sleep Apnea and Hypertension

Sleep apnea and hypertension are closely linked, with about half of the patients with either condition diagnosed with the other. This association is partly due to sleep apnea causing intermittent breathing pauses, leading to increased blood pressure and cardiovascular stress. Shared risk factors like obesity and older age also contribute to their coexistence. Treating sleep apnea, particularly with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, can positively affect blood pressure management and reduce hypertension-related risks.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

Various treatment options are available for addressing sleep apnea and enhancing overall well-being. Depending on its severity, treatments can range from lifestyle changes to more invasive methods. A common and effective treatment is the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, which delivers pressurized air to keep the airway open during sleep, improving sleep quality and reducing symptoms like snoring and daytime sleepiness. Treatment choice should be discussed with a healthcare professional who can assess the condition’s severity, patient needs, and recommend appropriate options for managing sleep apnea and severe sleep apnea and improving sleep.

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