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Sleep Apnea Facts

  • Sleep apnea affects up to 18 million Americans
  • The condition was first described in 1965
  • “Apnea” comes from a Greek word meaning “want of breath.”
  • People with sleep apnea can stop breathing as many as 30 times or more each night.
  • Often a spouse or other family member is the first to notice signs of sleep apnea in someone with the condition.
  • Officials estimate 10 million Americans have the condition but have not been diagnosed.
  • The condition affects about 4 percent of middle-aged men and 2 percent of middle-aged women.
  • Men in general suffer from sleep apnea more often than women.
  • Children can also have sleep apnea.
  • Sleep apnea in children has been linked to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
  • Some studies suggest sleep apnea runs in families.
  • Studies have linked sleep apnea to high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
  • Up to 50 percent of people with sleep apnea also suffer from high blood pressure.
  • People with sleep apnea are three times more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents.
  • People with sleep apnea sometimes fall asleep unexpectedly during the day, such as while talking on the phone or driving.
  • Risk factors for sleep apnea include being overweight and having a large neck.
  • Losing even 10 percent of body weight can help reduce the number of times a person with sleep apnea stops breathing during sleep.
  • African-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Mexican-Americans may be at increased risk for sleep apnea.
  • Smoking and alcohol use increase the risk of sleep apnea.
  • Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is the most common, noninvasive treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea.

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© 2014 American Association for Respiratory Care