Obstructive sleep apnea is a common disorder in the population-a review on the epidemiology of sleep apnea

J Thorac Dis. 2015 Aug;7(8):1311-22. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2015.06.11.


The prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) defined at an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) ≥5 was a mean of 22% (range, 9-37%) in men and 17% (range, 4-50%) in women in eleven published epidemiological studies published between 1993 and 2013. OSA with excessive daytime sleepiness occurred in 6% (range, 3-18%) of men and in 4% (range, 1-17%) of women. The prevalence increased with time and OSA was reported in 37% of men and in 50% of women in studies from 2008 and 2013 respectively. OSA is more prevalent in men than in women and increases with age and obesity. Smoking and alcohol consumption are also suggested as risk factors, but the results are conflicting. Excessive daytime sleepiness is suggested as the most important symptom of OSA, but only a fraction of subjects with AHI >5 report daytime sleepiness and one study did not find any relationship between daytime sleepiness and sleep apnea in women. Stroke and hypertension and coronary artery disease are associated with sleep apnea. Cross-sectional studies indicate an association between OSA and diabetes mellitus. Patients younger than 70 years run an increased risk of early death if they suffer from OSA. It is concluded that OSA is highly prevalent in the population. It is related to age and obesity. Only a part of subjects with OSA in the population have symptoms of daytime sleepiness. The prevalence of OSA has increased in epidemiological studies over time. Differences and the increase in prevalence of sleep apnea are probably due to different diagnostic equipment, definitions, study design and characteristics of included subjects including effects of the obesity epidemic. Cardiovascular disease, especially stroke is related to OSA, and subjects under the age of 70 run an increased risk of early death if they suffer from OSA.

Keywords: Epidemiology; population-based; prevalence; sleep apnea.

Publication types

  • Review