Fifty to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness. A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found 62 percent of all adults surveyed had driven a car while feeling drowsy and over 25 percent admitted they had actually dozed off while driving.
Drivers are up to seven times more likely to have an automobile accident if they have untreated obstructive sleep apnea. 23% of people surveyed said they new someone who had experienced a “fall-asleep” automobile accident.
Sleep apnea occurs in all age groups and both sexes, but it is more common in males and in those over the age of 40. Estimates suggest that as many as 18 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea also seems to run in some families, suggesting a possible genetic basis. Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other heart diseases, depression, irritability, learning and memory difficulties, weight gain, impotence, and headaches.
The most common symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea are loud snoring and excessive sleepiness (i.e., falling asleep easily and sometimes often inappropriately). The prevalence of sleep disorders appears to increase with advancing age, and as Americans age, an estimated 80 million Americans will have a sleep problem by the year 2010.