Sleep apnea is a problem associated with reduced flow of air into the lungs during sleep. The obstruction of air flow results in sleep fragmentation (poor quality sleep) and often decreased oxygen levels in the blood. This medical condition affects approximately 20 million people in the United States. It is estimated that 4% of men and 2% of women have this problem. These numbers are increasing yearly and it is felt that the majority of individuals with sleep apnea are unaware that they have this condition.
Sleep apnea has many health consequences. These can be loosely categorized into short term and long term problems. Short term consequences of sleep apnea include lack of energy, morning headaches, memory loss, irritability, decreased hand-eye coordination, increased risk of automobile accidents, altered sleeping arrangements with significant others, depression, and sexual dysfunction.
Long term, sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease/heart attack, and stroke. Individuals with untreated sleep apnea are more likely to die earlier than those who treat this problem.