Michael J. Twery, PhD, director of the NHLBI National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, is available to comment on these findings, as well as on associated health risks of sleep-disordered breathing, and the importance of diagnosing and treating the condition.
An estimated 12-18 million Americans have moderate to severe sleep-disordered breathing. Periodically during sleep, the upper airway becomes narrowed or blocked, and air has trouble reaching the lungs; in some cases, breathing stops completely (called apnea) for seconds to minutes at a time. The frequent pauses in breathing disrupt sleep and prevent adequate amounts of oxygen from entering the bloodstream. Interruptions in breathing are potentially serious medical conditions and should be evaluated by a physician to determine whether treatment is needed.
Because affected individuals are asleep and typically unaware of the breathing problems, and the condition cannot be diagnosed during routine physician office visits, most people with sleep-disordered breathing are undiagnosed.
Untreated sleep-disordered breathing has been linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and risk factors including high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes -- as well as to excessive daytime sleepiness, which can impair quality of life and performance on the job or in school, and increase the risk of injury or death from work-related accidents and vehicular crashes.
Common signs that should be discussed with a physician include complaints of snoring from bed partners, excessive daytime sleepiness, and morning headache. Sleep-disordered breathing occurs in people of all ages, but is more common in men, the elderly, and overweight individuals. With the growing prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States and the aging population, the number of individuals with sleep-disordered breathing is likely to rise.
|Contact: NHLBI Communications Office|
NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute