Sleep Apnea

  • Medical Author:
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Causes of Fatigue Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideSleep Disorders Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Sleeping Disorders

Sleep Disorders Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Sleeping Disorders

How common is obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is estimated to affect about 4% of men and 2% of women. In one study of people over 18 years of age, obstructive sleep apnea was estimated to develop in 1.5% of people per year over the 5 year study. It is probably more common than either of these numbers because the population is becoming more obese, and obesity worsens obstructive sleep apnea. More shocking is the estimate that only 10% of people with obstructive sleep apnea are currently receiving treatment and many patients with sleep apnea remain undiagnosed.

Some groups are more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Men are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than women before age 50.
  • After age 50, the risk is the same in men and women.
  • Among obese patients, a majority have obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea worsens in severity and prevalence with increasing obesity.
  • Among patients with heart disease, a significant portion have obstructive sleep apnea, and among patients with strokes, a majority have obstructive sleep apnea.
  • African-Americans have a 2.5 times greater risk of obstructive sleep apnea than Caucasians. The prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea in the Chinese population is similar to American Caucasians, but the Chinese population is generally smaller and less obese than the general American population. Therefore, something besides obesity must be the explanation for obstructive sleep apnea in the Chinese population. We do not understand the reasons for these differences, but studies are ongoing to better define the risks.
  • The prevalence of sleep apnea in nonobese and otherwise healthy children younger than 8 years old is considered as high as 5%. Obstructive sleep apnea may develop in children of all ages, even in infants. Prematurely born infants are at a higher risk to develop sleep apnea.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/4/2015
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