Sleep Apnea & Other Disorders Impact 40 Million Americans
David Hope
Mar 15, 2011, 06:43

Sleep apnea sufferers are quickly increasing in number, and a recent research effort has found that the majority of American adults don�t get enough sleep. More than 40 million Americans already suffer from some sort of sleep disorder - which means that sleep apnea is not alone. Other sleeping problems include insomnia, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy.

About 2 percent of women and at least 4 percent of men suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which the airway collapses and blocks breathing for 30 seconds or even up to a minute or two. The brain senses that it isn't receiving enough oxygen and sends a signal to the person to wake up.

The incidence of sleep apnea rises with age. Experts� estimate that it affects about 40 percent of people ages 65 and older.

In women, the prevalence rises steeply after menopause. And as people get older, the throat muscles become more prone to collapse.

Being overweight more than doubles your risk of having sleep apnea.

The number of people being treated for the condition is climbing along with rising obesity. A 2005 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that the average weight of women referred to sleep centers for treatment of a breathing disorder had increased by nearly 10 percent over a nine-year period and the average weight of men rose almost 5 percent.

A person is diagnosed with sleep apnea if he or she has at least five apnea events per hour, accompanied by daytime sleepiness. But symptoms can be more severe.

"They might be waking up hundreds of times during the night," Sonia Ancoli-Israel, a sleep researcher at UC San Diego told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

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