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Sleep Disorders

Narrative

An estimated 50 to 70 million adults in the United States suffer from a chronic sleep or wakefulness disorder, which can impair functioning and increase the risk of injury and various chronic conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.1 Common forms of sleep disorders include insomnia, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, and sleep apnea.2 Chronic snoring may be an indicator of obstructive sleep apnea—a serious disorder in which the airway is obstructed during sleep and there is momentary oxygen disruption followed by gasping or snorting.2,3 Sleep apnea results in reduced sleep quality and fatigue and can produce severe cardiovascular complications as a consequence of disordered breathing. Treatments for sleep apnea can include behavioral modifications, such as weight loss and smoking cessation, as well as certain devices and surgery.

In 2005–2008, 6.8 percent of women and 8.0 percent of men reported that they had ever been told by a health professional that they had a sleep disorder. Among women, sleep disorders were more common among those with lower incomes. For example, 10.5 percent of women with household incomes below 100 percent of poverty had reported that that they had been diagnosed with a sleep disorder, compared to 5.5 percent of women with incomes of 300 percent or more of poverty. Among men, however, sleep disorders were most common at higher income levels. Over 9 percent of men with household incomes of 300 percent or more of poverty reported that they had ever been told by a health professional that they had a sleep disorder, compared to 6.5 percent of men with incomes between 100–199 percent of poverty.

The prevalence of sleep disorders also varies by body mass index—a ratio of weight to height. Obesity can increase the risk of sleep apnea by obstructing the upper airway; however, sleep disorders can occur at any weight. In 2005–2008, women who were obese were three times more likely to have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder than women who were not overweight or obese (11.4 versus 3.8 percent, respectively). Weight loss can resolve some cases of sleep apnea.3

1 Institute of Medicine. Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation: an unmet public health problem. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2006.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep and Sleep Disorders. January 2011. Accessed 04/24/11.
3 Mayo Clinic.External Web Site Policy Sleep Apnea. June 2010. Accessed 04/24/11.

Graphs

Data

Sleep Disorders* Among Adults Aged 18 and Older, by Poverty Status** and Sex, 2005–2008
Poverty Status Percent of Adults
Female Male
*Reported that a health professional has ever told them they have a sleep disorder: this may include insomnia, restless legs, sleep apnea, and other conditions.
**Poverty level, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, was $22,025 for a family of four in 2008.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005-2008. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Information Resource Center. .
Less Than 100% of Poverty 10.5 7.2
100-199% of Poverty 7.3 6.5
200-299% of Poverty 6.6 6.6
300% or More of Poverty 5.5 9.2
Total 6.8 8.0

Sleep Disorders* Among Women Aged 18 and Older, by Body Mass Index,** 2005–2008

Percent of Women:

  • Not Overweight or Obese: 3.8
  • Overweight: 4.9
  • Obese: 11.4

*Reported that a health professional has ever told them they have a sleep disorder: this may include insomnia, restless legs, sleep apnea, and other conditions.
**Body Mass Index (BMI) is a ratio of weight to height; overweight is defined as a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9; obesity is defined as a BMI of 30.0 or higher.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005-2008. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Information Resource Center.

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