Sleep Apnea Affects Nearly 1 Billion People

New research increases the estimate of people suffering from sleep apnea nearly 10-fold to more than 936 million.

A new study finds that sleep apnea affects far more people — nearly 10 times as many — than previously thought.

The study, "Global Prevalence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)," was conducted by an international panel of researchers and found that more than 936 million people around the world are affected by sleep apnea. The previous estimate was merely 100 million people and came in 2007 from the World Health Organization, which acknowledged at the time that their estimate was not based on robust data.

The new study, carried out by a panel of researchers convened by ResMed, came to its new, higher estimate after reviewing published papers related to the prevalence of sleep disorders from 16 different countries.

"After data review, estimates were extrapolated based on the global adult population aged 30–69 years," according to information released by ResMed. "Prevalence statistics were applied to population numbers in each country based on the corresponding gender and body mass index (a key risk factor for OSA). OSA prevalence was estimated based on severity of the disease as measured by the apnea–hypopnea index."

"This study should encourage physicians to talk with their patients about how sleep affects our overall health," said ResMed Chief Medical Officer Carlos M. Nunez, in a prepared statement. "It should also cause more people to ask themselves, 'Do I or my bed partner have this?' Those who have sleep apnea don't often realize they have it and, therefore, don't realize they can do something to mitigate the resulting chronic fatigue or its more harmful long-term health risks. And sleep apnea isn't just a disease for older, overweight men, as once thought. It affects people of all ages, all ethnic and racial groups, all states of health, and is not gender specific. In fact, nearly half of newly diagnosed patients are female."

In related news, a pair of studies also sponsored by ResMed have found that remote monitoring and resupply programs are effective methods for improving positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy adherence.

For the first, a panel of researchers examined more than 2.6 million patients using ResMed's remote monitoring network, AirView. The researchers found that 75 percent of those patients were compliant according to thresholds set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, versus only about 50 percent of patients receiving PAP therapy without remote monitoring.

In the second study, researchers looked at 100,000 well-matched PAP patients and found that, over the course of a year, those enrolled in resupply programs slept an average of 5.6 hours each night with PAP, compared to just 4.5 hours among those not enrolled in a resupply program. Patients in the resupply cohort were also less likely to terminate PAP treatment than the others, at a rate of just 16.1 percent after a year compared to 33.8 percent for those without a resupply program.

"These two studies demonstrate significantly effective ways to help patients achieve 90-day compliance with cloud-based remote monitoring and to keep them compliant over the long term with mask resupply programs," said Adam Benjafield, vice president of medical affairs at ResMed and a researcher on both studies, in a prepared statement. "This is why every new ResMed PAP device has cloud connectivity without any setup required by the clinician or user, and why we advocate for patients to be enrolled in mask resupply programs to maximize their long-term adherence to improve health outcomes."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is a freelance writer specializing in various markets including education and healthcare. He can be reached at


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