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Is sleep apnea becoming a more common condition?

Published on October 06, 2022

3 minutes

It's hard to explain why sleep apnea is getting talked about more often.

Consider some of the ways in which our biology and habits have changed in recent decades. For example, we can see an increase in the rate of obesity among children and a much higher prevalence of sleep apnea in that demographic as well. 

Modern studies suggest that we are becoming significantly more prone to sleep apnea than we were 20 years ago. Let’s take a look at how rates of sleep apnea have changed in the last two decades.

How common is sleep apnea?

The table below demonstrates this increase in prevalence. AHI is an abbreviation for “Apnea Hypopnea Index” or the number of times that you stop breathing per hour. You can see the increase in over a 22 year period. 

Prevalence of Sleep Apnea over 20 years

  19931 20152

Mild Sleep Apnea

(AHI* ≥ 5)

Males = 24%

Females = 9%

Males = 34%

Females = 38%

Severe sleep apnea

(AHI* ≥ 15)

Males = 9%

Females = 4%

Males = 49%

Females = 23%

*AHI: The Apnea–Hypopnea Index is used to assess the severity of sleep apnea based on the total number of complete cessations (apnea) and partial obstructions (hypopnea) of breathing that occur per hour of sleep.

Treating sleep apnea can help prevent serious chronic conditions including hypertension, arrhythmia and other cardiac issues, increased blood pressure, lung dysfunction and stroke. It is a very serious condition that needs medical attention and treatment.

The rate of sleep apnea is rising, but with it, so is awareness of the condition. With increased awareness comes innovation; new CPAP machines, cpap masks and comfort accessories are constantly being created. Comfort on therapy is also much improved and is a function of expanding knowledge of the condition. We now know the dangers of untreated OSA and, as such, more sleep apnea sufferers are seeking diagnosis and treatment.


For more information about sleep apnea and sleep apnea treatment, check out our blogs:

  • VitalAire Sleep Talk™: Sleep Apnea Explained
  • Treating sleep apnea is good for your heart
  • Ask an expert: about sleep apnea & snoring. 


T. Young et al., The occurrence of sleep-disordered breathing among middle-aged adults. N Engl J Med. 1993; 328: 1230-1235.

R. Heinzer et al., Prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing in the general population: the HypnoLaus study. Lancet Respir Med. 2015 Apr;3(4):310-8. doi: 10.1016/S2213-2600(15)00043-0.