Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where breathing is interrupted or shallow during sleep. This can occur multiple times throughout the night, lasting from a few seconds to minutes.
The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), caused by the throat muscles failing to keep the airway open. This leads to a drop in oxygen levels, causing the person to wake briefly to resume breathing, leading to poor sleep quality and daytime sleepiness. Symptoms include snoring, gasping, headaches, dry mouth, and difficulty concentrating. Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can cause health complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and even death.
Research shows that sleep apnea affects 20-30% of adults globally, with up to 25 million adults estimated to have OSA in the United States alone, as Viktoriya told Sciencetimes.com. The disorder is associated with cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression. CPAP therapy is the most common treatment, but adherence can be a challenge. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, smoking cessation, and reducing alcohol intake can also help improve symptoms.
In Canada, sleep apnea affects an estimated 5-10% of adults, but many cases go undiagnosed. It takes an average of seven years for a person with symptoms to be diagnosed, and obesity, being male, family history, large neck circumference, and smoking are risk factors. The economic burden is approximately $6 billion CAD per year.
Sleep apnea increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents. Studies show that individuals with OSA have a 2.5 times greater risk of being involved in a car accident than those without the condition. Truck drivers with untreated sleep apnea have a significantly higher risk of being involved in a serious motor vehicle accident than those receiving treatment. Diagnosing and treating sleep apnea is crucial to reduce the risk of accidents and improving overall safety.