Around 35% of all American adults report sleeping less than seven hours per night on average, and people with certain medical conditions like sleep apnea—especially when undiagnosed—have a harder time getting enough shut-eye each night. When you read sleep apnea statistics, it’s easy to see why so many people are missing quality sleep and why seeking treatment for sleep apnea is so important.
We’re exploring sleep apnea facts and statistics to help you learn who is impacted by sleep apnea, how it affects the body, and why it’s critical to diagnose and treat this common sleep disorder.
Take a Look: Sleep Apnea Statistics
There’s a lot of information out there about sleep apnea. We want to share some of the most frequently asked questions about sleep apnea statistics, so consider this your sleep apnea fact sheet!
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is sleep-disordered breathing characterized by a number of involuntary breathing events during a single night of sleep. There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is classified by an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), which reflects the severity of sleep apnea and is calculated by the number of apneas or hypopneas per hour of sleep. AHI ranges from 0 to > 30, which is severe sleep apnea.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
The symptoms of sleep apnea can be subtle (and mild sleep apnea can present in numerous unpredictable ways), so it’s alarming but not surprising that 75% of sleep-disordered breathing cases remain undiagnosed. Some signs and symptoms to look for include:
- Morning Headaches
- Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
- Lack of Energy
- Irregular Breathing During Sleep
- Nighttime Gasping, Choking, or Coughing
- Frequent Nocturnal Urination
- Gastroesophageal Reflux
- Large Neck Size
Keep in mind that having one or more of these signs or symptoms does not necessarily mean you have sleep apnea. If you think you may have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, consult with your doctor and arrange for a sleep study.
Who Suffers From Sleep Apnea?
So, how common is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea and other sleep-disordered breathing conditions affect all ages, genders, and races. Approximately 3% to 7% of men and around 2% to 5% of women have sleep apnea. Men are twice as likely as women to have sleep apnea. About 26% of adults aged 30 to 70 have obstructive sleep apnea, and though around 20% of children snore, only 1% to 8% of children aged 2 to 8 have sleep apnea. As we age, the rate for sleep apnea increases significantly.
How Many People Have Sleep Apnea?
You may be wondering what percentage of people have sleep apnea. Around 50 to 70 million adults in the United States have a sleep disorder and an estimated 22 million Americans are living with moderate to severe sleep apnea, so the percentage of people with sleep apnea in the United States around 18% of the adult population. Globally, over 100 million people suffer from sleep apnea.
What Is the Prevalence of Sleep Apnea?
One in five adults have Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea. However, 1 in 15 adults have Moderate to Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The prevalence of sleep apnea is similar to diabetes and asthma, as almost 24 million people in the United States have diabetes and around 20 million have asthma.
What Are the Risk Factors for Having Sleep Apnea?
People who smoke or are overweight or who have chronic nasal congestion, a narrowed airway, or a family history of sleep apnea are all risk factors for having sleep apnea. Excessive use of alcohol or sedatives and endocrine and metabolic disorders can also increase the risk factor. There are others who are living with untreated sleep apnea but may not know they have sleep apnea; up to 83% of people with type 2 diabetes have sleep apnea and may not know it.
Additionally, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is considered to be a risk factor for many other diseases, including hypertension, stroke, coronary disease, and heart failure and is often associated with other psychiatric comorbid diseases including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD.
What is the Life Expectancy of Someone With Sleep Apnea?
A study observing sleep-disordered breathing and mortality showed “a significant, high mortality risk with untreated sleep-disordered breathing independent of age, sex, and BMI [which] underscore the need for treatment of sleep-disordered breathing indicated by frequent episodes of apnea and hypopnea.” Sleep apnea can cause other health conditions that lead to premature death.
Does Sleep Apnea Cause Other Chronic Health Conditions?
Compared to their peers without sleep abnormalities, people with sleep apnea have been found to be at an increased risk for numerous cardiovascular diseases, including irregular heartbeats, hypertension, stroke, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and coronary heart disease. Forty-three percent of people with mild obstructive sleep apnea and 69% of people with severe obstructive sleep apnea have hypertension. Up to 70% of stroke patients in rehabilitation have significant sleep-disordered breathing.
Overall, insufficient sleep has been linked to the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and depression.
How Many People Are Getting in Car Accidents Because of Sleep Apnea?
There are some interesting facts about sleep apnea, like that people with sleep apnea are at twice the risk of having a car accident. According to one 2004 study, treating all United States drivers suffering from sleep apnea would save $11.1 billion in collision costs and save 980 lives annually. The correlation between obstructive sleep apnea and driving incidents isn’t too surprising; excessive daytime sleepiness and short sleep duration are some of the independent predictors of increased crash risk in people with sleep apnea.
Further, medical patients utilized 23% to 50% more medical resources prior to a sleep apnea diagnosis, and studies show undiagnosed moderate to severe sleep apnea in middle-aged adults may cause $3.4 billion in additional medical costs in the United States.
CPAP Therapy Improves Quality of Life
CPAP is considered the gold standard for treating obstructive sleep apnea, but this treatment plan continues to be afflicted by issues with compliance. Despite interventions “designed to improve adherence rates over the long term,” there aren’t many clinically-impactful differences.
One study demonstrated that the quality of life in people with sleep apnea was “better after CPAP therapy” with participants reporting improvement in:
- Daily Functioning
- Social Interactions
- Emotional Functioning
- General Symptoms
It’s worth noting that losing weight can help improve obstructive sleep apnea and the associated symptoms, though weight loss alone is not a complete or comprehensive plan for treating sleep apnea.
Now that you’ve learned who suffers from sleep apnea and how many people use a CPAP machine, you may be wondering if you’re one of the ones who is experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea who have not yet been diagnosed with sleep apnea. If you or your partner suspect you have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, it’s worth scheduling a sleep study or signing up for a home sleep test. For more sleep apnea statistics, reviews of CPAP products and accessories, and more, you can explore our blog!