Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in men than in women. Men tend to have larger necks and weigh more than women. However, women tend to gain weight and develop larger necks after menopause, which increases their risk of developing sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is most common in adults ages 40 - 60 years old. Middle age is also when symptoms are worse. Nevertheless, sleep apnea can affect people of all ages.
Race and Ethnicity
African-Americans face a higher risk for sleep apnea than any other ethnic group in the United States. Other groups at increased risk include Pacific Islanders and Mexicans.
People with a family history of obstructive sleep apnea are at increased risk of developing the condition.
Obesity, especially having fat around the abdomen (the so-called apple shape), is a particular risk factor for sleep apnea, even in adolescents and children. However, not all people who are obese have sleep apnea. Specific anatomical and physiological properties in the airways are more likely to be present in obese individuals with apnea.
Review Date: 06/11/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.