21 Sleep Apnea Statistics: How Dangerous Is It?

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21 Sleep Apnea Statistics: How Dangerous Is It?

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We usually aren’t too aware of what we do in our sleep. Maybe we murmur something from time to time, snore lightly, or kick. These habits can be a bit annoying, but what if you have some potentially dangerous symptoms, like trouble breathing during sleep?

If you snore way too loudly or feel tired after a full night of sleeping, you might have sleep apnea.

So, what is sleep apnea? It’s a sleep disorder where breathing starts and stops repeatedly during sleep, sometimes for longer than 10 seconds. 

Many haven’t even heard about it or don’t know much about the condition. So let’s take a peek at these sleep apnea statistics and learn something new.

People usually don’t take it seriously enough, and that’s exactly why you need to know more about what causes sleep apnea, its symptoms, prevalence rate, treatments, and remedies.

Let’s talk about some of the most interesting sleep apnea facts and stats. 

Sleep Apnea Statistics Everyone Should Know (Editor’s Choice)

  • In 2018, over 100 million people around the world were suffering from sleep apnea.
  • The most common sleep apnea symptoms are loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, waking up with a dry mouth, morning headaches, insomnia, and irritability.
  • There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and complex sleep apnea.
  • The factors that increase the risk of developing sleep apnea are mainly excess weight, narrow airways, enlarged tonsils, high blood pressure, and chronic nasal congestion.
  • 38 thousand people in the US who die of heart disease every year have sleep apnea as a factor that worsens their condition.
  • Treating central sleep apnea includes treating its causes, using breathing devices, eliminating the use of opioids, and phrenic nerve stimulation.
  • Sleep apnea episodes can be very frequent, occurring up to 30-40 times per hour throughout the night, and they prevent the sufferer from entering a deep sleep phase.
  •  A sleep study (polysomnography) is the best way to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea in children. 

Sleep Apnea Stats – Data, Prevalence Rates, and Demographics

1. Between 50 and 70 million adults in the US struggle with some kind of a sleep disorder.


As the sleep quality statistics show, some kind of a sleeping disorder affects one in three people at some stage of their lives. These disorders include insomnia, snoring, sleep deprivation, and narcolepsy, among others. 

2. Approximately 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, and the percentage of people with sleep apnea with moderate and severe symptoms who aren’t diagnosed is 80%. 

(Sleepfoundation; Sleepapnea)

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association statistics on sleep apnea, it’s as common as type 2 diabetes. It can occur at any age, and even children and infants can have sleep apnea. It’s important to highlight that many patients remain undiagnosed and untreated due to a lack of awareness by healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, this disorder, if left untreated, can have serious consequences. 

3. Obstructive sleep apnea statistics from 2016 show us that approximately 1 in 5 adults had mild, and 1 in 15 had moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnea. 


Let’s not forget the fact that many cases remain undiagnosed. This shows how common obstructive sleep apnea is. According to the sleep disorder statistics published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, about 24% of men and 9% of women have this sleeping disorder with or without daytime sleepiness. There are even cases where people with severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea don’t feel dizzy or sleepy the next day. Nonetheless, doctors recommend that such patients receive treatment. Obstructive sleep apnea in children is not as common as in adults. It occurs in about 2% of children and is most common between the ages of 3 and 6. 

4. In 2018, over 100 million people around the world suffered from sleep apnea.


Sleep apnea prevalence is constantly increasing due to increased obesity. Here’s the global prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea in some countries in 2018: The US: 34% men; 17% women. Switzerland: 50% men; 23% women. Hong Kong: 9% men; 4% women. Brazil: 47% men; 31% women. India: 14% men; 6% women. Australia: 24% men; 25% women. These sleep apnea demographics show that this disorder is a worldwide problem. 

5. The VA disability rating for sleep apnea falls under title 38 CFR § 4.97. 


Veterans can have a 0, 30, 50, or 100% rating depending on the severity of their condition.

If a veteran has no symptoms but has sleep apnea diagnosed, their rating is 0%. It increases to 30% if they experience daytime sleepiness. The 50% rating is for veterans who have to use a breathing device, such as CPAP, and the 100% rating is reserved for veterans who have a chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention.

Sleep Apnea Stats about Types, Symptoms, and Causes

6. The most common sleep apnea symptoms are loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, waking up with a dry mouth, morning headaches, insomnia, irritability, and others.


Some symptoms can be noticed and recognized by other people, such as snoring, or episodes in which someone stops breathing in their sleep. It’s important to visit a doctor in time and do a full check-up. Loud snoring doesn’t have to mean that a person has sleep apnea, but it can be a very good indicator that there’s a health problem present. Also, troubled sleep, including waking up frequently, insomnia, and restlessness, is a symptom that’s more present in women. If you constantly feel fatigued and irritable, visit a doctor. The consequences of untreated sleep apnea can be serious, even fatal—especially if your case is severe. 

7. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and complex sleep apnea.


Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common among these three. It occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. This leads to narrowing or completely closing the airway. The brain senses the lack of oxygen and the inability to breathe and sends the wakeup signal. The sufferers don’t remember waking up, but their sleep cycle was interrupted, leading to exhaustion and sleep deprivation they aren’t even aware of. What is central sleep apnea and how does it differ from the obstructive version? Central sleep apnea episode is triggered when the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. It can be present from birth (that condition is called congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS), or it can occur later in life. 

8. The factors that increase the risk of developing sleep apnea are mainly excess weight, narrow airways, enlarged tonsils, high blood pressure, and chronic nasal congestion.


The answer to what causes sleep apnea is complex, as many factors can contribute to its development. When we’re talking about obstructive sleep apnea, excess weight may lead to fat deposits around the upper airway, restricting breathing. Apart from obesity and narrowed airways, smoking, genetics, nasal congestion, and the use of alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers (they relax throat muscles) can also contribute to its development. Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea. Some of the pain medications can worsen central sleep apnea, but the factor which affects both types is being older, and being male. Sleep apnea in women is rarer. People older than 40 are in a high-risk group, but women are at higher risk only after menopause. Other potential sleep apnea causes are having a recessed chin, a small jaw, or a large overbite. 

Sleep Apnea Health Risks and Death Rate

9. The side effects of sleep apnea include hypertension (high blood pressure), abnormal heart rhythm, heart problems, complications during surgery, liver problems, and even sleep-deprived partners and depression.


People with sleep apnea may fall asleep during the day due to extreme fatigue, sometimes even when driving. The lack of oxygen can lead to heart problems or high blood pressure. Also, sleep apnea patients have face greater risk when undergoing major surgeries—their breathing problems are exacerbated under anesthesia, and complications may arise if they have to spend a long time sedated on the operating table. Sometimes, people with sleep apnea have abnormal results on liver function tests and suffer from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. 

10. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 38,000 people in the US who die of heart disease every year have sleep apnea as a factor that worsens their condition.


If someone already has heart disease, these frequent episodes of low blood oxygen can lead to sudden death. Sleep apnea deaths per year are a bit difficult to determine, because many people have heart disease already, and its combination with sleep apnea is what causes death. However, People can die from sleep apnea, too. If a person is 60 or older, and if they have more than 20 episodes per hour, or if the percentage of oxygen falls under 78%, a person can die. 

Sleep Apnea in Young Adults and Children

11. A sleep study (polysomnography) is a recommended way to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea in children.


A child needs to sleep in a special lab, while the doctors perform tests that acquire information about their brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, oxygen or carbon dioxide content in the blood, movement of the chest, and amount of air flowing through the nose and mouth. Some devices can help parents do this at home if the child doesn’t want to cooperate for some reason. 

12. The main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea in children are restless sleep, gasping, loud snoring, breathing through the mouth, and a nasal voice, but children can also wet their bed or even sleepwalk and experience night terrors.


The signs of sleep apnea in adults and children are somewhat similar, but children have more potential symptoms. They can also have behavioral or learning problems and are often hyperactive throughout the day. The main cause of sleep apnea in children is excess weight. Other causes include a tumor or a growth in the airway, and some mental disorders, such as Down syndrome or Pierre-Robin syndrome. Because of the sleep apnea statistics, we know that 10–20% of children who snore have sleep apnea. Children and adolescents with sleep apnea might perform poorly in school or have behavior problems. 

How to Deal with Sleep Apnea – Treatment Options and Remedies

13. The central sleep apnea treatment includes treating its causes, using breathing devices, eliminating the use of opioids, and phrenic nerve stimulation.


Breathing devices, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV), or bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP) are useful in managing sleep apnea. CPAP is more frequently used with obstructive sleep apnea, but it can help central sleep apnea patients as well, especially the ones who are recovering from heart failure. ASV is used to smooth out the breathing pattern, but it’s not advised for patients with symptomatic heart failure. BPAP works in a similar way, but it can worsen sleep apnea for patients with heart failure. Apart from that, supplemental oxygen can be used, along with medications. 

14. CPAP statistics show that CPAP therapy is nearly 100% successful in treating obstructive sleep apnea.


Almost all the alternative treatments are either very similar to CPAP or they’re about helping people to get used to this device. Wearing a CPAP mask can be very uncomfortable for some patients. Even though it might be difficult to use in the beginning, the result is worth the struggle. 

15. Another way to deal with sleep apnea is undergoing nasal or upper airway surgery.


Nasal surgery is done by straightening out the septum and reducing the size of the turbinates. The upper airway surgery is also called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPP), and its goal is to remove excess tissue from the sides of the throat and the uvula. The recovery may last for a few weeks. Apart from these, there is maxillomandibular advancement (MMA), tracheostomy, and hypoglossal nerve stimulation. Other procedures, such as reduction of the size of the tongue and relocation of the hyoid bone, can also help. Sleep apnea surgery costs can vary, depending on the type of surgery and other factors. Maxillomandibular (jaw) advancement may cost $80,000 to $100,000, while minor nasal surgeries can run up to $10,000. 

Other Sleep Apnea Facts, Tips, and Advice

16. According to sleep apnea stats, the average number of episodes per night for someone with sleep apnea is 400.


Obstructive sleep apnea is classified by its severity: it can be mild, moderate, or severe. There is a measuring system called apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), and it measures the number of breathing pauses per hour. Having mild sleep apnea means having AHI between 5 and 15. If AHI is between 15 and 30, then it’s moderate, but if a person experiences more than 30 episodes per hour, they have a severe case of sleep apnea. 

17. Sleep apnea can be very frequent. A patient can experience an episode 30-40 times per hour, all night, and it prevents them from entering a deep sleep phase.

(Mayoclinic; Cardiosmart)

Having more than five apneas per hour is enough for a possible diagnosis. However, 25% of people don’t feel sleepy the next day, making it much more difficult to diagnose and treat the disorder. Luckily, there are many solutions for sleep apnea.  

18. There are natural remedies for sleep apnea that can prevent it or improve the patient’s condition.


Many people find using breathing devices too uncomfortable, but some alternative solutions are also beneficial. Yoga, for example, or using humidifiers (devices that add moisture to the air) can be really helpful. The answer to how to prevent sleep apnea is quite simple; just stop engaging in high-risk behaviors and stop doing anything that would exacerbate it. If you are a smoker, quit smoking for good. Don’t use sleeping pills or drink alcohol, because they relax the muscles in your throat, which causes breathing problems. If you are overweight, exercise regularly and lose weight. Sleeping on the side rather than the back can also be helpful. Even if you don’t manage to prevent or cure it completely, you won’t be in as great of a danger as people who live unhealthy lifestyles. People with sleep apnea should avoid sleep deprivation. Therefore, one of the best sleep apnea tips is simply doing whatever you can to prevent it.  

19. According to the National Sleep Foundation statistics from 2018, the average sleep health index of Americans was 68%. 


The sleep health index is the National Sleep Foundation’s composite index of sleep duration, sleep quality, and disordered sleep. Only 10% of American adults found sleep more important than other aspects of their life, such as socializing, work, etc., and 35% of Americans found fitness and nutrition more important than sleep. 

The Final Word

The sleep apnea data shows us that this disorder is more common than we think, and it can be really dangerous if untreated. The main problem is that many people are not even aware that they suffer from sleep apnea because they don’t feel sleepy or irritated. 

There are many factors which can increase the risk of developing sleep apnea, such as excess weight, high blood pressure, chronic nasal congestion, narrow airways, or enlarged tonsils.

Sleep apnea is more common in people aged over 40, but even infants can have sleep apnea. It can be mild, but it can also have detrimental effects on a person’s health, especially if they have problems with their heart. It usually takes a combination of procedures for a successful treatment. 

Luckily, there are ways to help alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea or even prevent it. The most helpful treatment is a breathing device called CPAP, but there are other kinds of treatments, such as other devices, surgeries, or natural remedies. 

People should know about these sleep apnea statistics, especially if they know someone who might have it, or if they struggle with this disorder. 

Knowing how to stop sleep apnea from developing by adjusting the current lifestyle can be life-saving in the future.

Being informed well enough and knowing what to do if someone has sleep apnea can vastly contribute to a person’s health.


What percentage of the population suffers from sleep apnea?

Over 100 million people around the world suffer from sleep apnea, which means that 1.28% of the population has this disorder.

How many sleep apnea events per hour is normal?

Based on the apnea-hypopnea index (or AHI), everything below five is considered normal.

What is a good sleep apnea score?

A good sleep apnea score is anything lower than five episodes per hour.

Why is sleep apnea so common now?

Sleep apnea is more common because the percentage of people who are obese or have excess weight is increasing.

What percentage of sleep apnea patients die?

Patients usually die with sleep apnea as a complicating factor. In the US, 38,000 (0.01%) people die because sleep apnea worsened their health condition.

Can you have sleep apnea and be skinny?

Yes, because many other factors apart from excess weight can cause sleep apnea, such as hereditary traits (for example, narrow airways), and heart disorders.

Is sleep apnea really a thing?

Yes, and it’s quite common. If untreated, can lead to severe consequences.

Can you have sleep apnea in your 20s?

Yes. Even infants and children can have sleep apnea. 

How can I fix sleep apnea naturally?

You can do yoga, quit drinking, smoking, or taking opioids. You can exercise regularly, adjust your sleeping schedule, and live a healthy lifestyle.