National Sleep Foundation

Chapter 3: Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders


OSAS can occur at any age.

Data suggest that Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) affects 5 - 20 percent of the adult population, when assessed with sleep tests or other rigorous criteria.1 2 3 OSAS is likely to be under-diagnosed, however. One survey found that about one-third of the adults in a primary care clinic population noted that they had OSAS symptoms.4 In addition, OSAS is prevalent — but rarely diagnosed — in patients with myocardial infarction.

In children, OSAS peaks between two and six years of age, coinciding with the peak age of lymphoid hyperplasia (the “rapid increase in the number of normal cells [called lymphocytes] that are contained in lymph nodes”6) and adenotonsillar hypertrophy. The disorder is seen in about 1 to 3 percent of children of preschool age.7 8  Among children who habitually snore, OSAS prevalence may be as high as 10 to 20 percent.


  1. Parish JM, Somers VK. Obstructive sleep apnea and cardio-vascular disease.2Mayo Clin Proc.2004;79:1036–1046.
  2. Weaver TE, George CFP, “Cognition and Performance in Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea,” in Kryger M, Roth T, Dement W (ed.), Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine (5th Edition), St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders, 2011, pages 1194-1205.
  3. Peppard PE, Young T, Barnet JH, et al. Increased prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing in adults. Am J Epidemiol. 2013;177:1006-14.
  4. Netzer, NC, Hoegel JJ, Loube D, Netzer CM, Hay B, Alvarez-Sala R, Strohl KP. Prevalence of symptoms and risk of sleep apnea in primary care. Chest. 2003:124(4):1406-14.
  5. Konecny T, Kuniyoshi FH, Orban M, et al. Under-diagnosis of sleep apnoea in patients after acute myocardial infarction. J Am Coll Cardiol 2010;56:742–3.doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2010.04.032.
  6. U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia, “Lymphoid hyperplasia,” Bethesda MD: NLM, September 1, 2013.  Available online at:
  7. Mindell JA, Owens JA. Diagnosis and Management of Sleep Problems. A Clinical Guide to Pediatric Sleep. Philadelphia. PA: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2003.
  8. Marcus CL. Pathophysiology of childhood obstructive sleep apnea: current concepts. Resp Physiol. 2000;119:143-154