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Apnea: Sleep, Interrupted

Repeatedly waking up costs sufferers not only a good night’s rest, but their health and money as well.

Summer 2011
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18 million
Estimated number of Americans who suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing that can occur 20 or more times per hour; the combination of intermittent oxygen drops and reduced sleep quality triggers the release of stress hormones, which in turn raise blood pressure and heart rate, boosting the risk of heart attack, stroke and congestive heart failure

Main types: obstructive sleep apnea, the more common, in which relaxation of throat muscles and often a narrow airway leads to pauses in breathing; and central sleep apnea, a rare form in which the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing

Estimated percentage of people with obstructive sleep apnea who remain undiagnosed

Times more likely that people with sleep apnea suffer from hypertension

Times more likely that untreated sleep apnea increases the risk of vehicle crashes

Estimated percentage of weight loss that can help reduce the occurrence of sleep apnea in overweight people, for whom this disorder is more common (fat deposits around the upper airway may obstruct breathing)

Low-end cost of one of the most effective treatments: a continuous positive airway device, which holds the airway open by delivering pressurized air through a mask

Percent success rate for patients who receive uvulopalatopharyngoplasty surgery to remove excess tissue in the back of the throat

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