Public health impact of sleep apnea is severe

The National Health Sleep Awareness Project is shedding light on the public health impact of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Afflicting at least 25 million adults in the U.S., sleep apnea is a serious and growing problem.

Sleep apnea is a chronic disease that involves repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep. If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause a number of health problems. It increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and depression.

“Obstructive sleep apnea is destroying the health of millions of Americans,” said Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler. He is president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “The problem has only gotten worse over the last two decades.”

Data suggest that the rise in obesity may be fueling an increase in sleep apnea cases. It is now estimated that 26 percent of adults between the ages of 30 and 70 years have sleep apnea.

Several new studies point out the negative effects of sleep apnea on brain and heart health. These health risks can be reduced by treating sleep apnea with CPAP therapy. CPAP provides gently pressurized air through a mask that you wear during sleep.