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Is Sleep Apnea Risk Higher for Asians?

Filed in
  • race
  • Sleep apnea

American Academy of Sleep Medicine  |  Aug 06, 2010
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As obesity rates climb to epidemic levels in nearly every U.S. state, one population may need to be especially weary of a serious sleep disorder linked to weight gain. People of Asian descent tend to have more severe obstructive sleep apnea than Caucasians of similar age and BMI.

The findings are especially alarming because the Caucasians in the sample tended to be much more overweight than their Asian counterparts. Differences in facial bone structure appear to be the reason why Asians have a higher risk for OSA.

The findings were the result of a joint study between University researchers in Australia and China published in the August issue of the journal SLEEP. A sample of 74 Caucasian patients from an Australian clinic and 76 Chinese patients from a clinic in Hong Kong underwent a sleep study and a series of physical and x-ray measures.

OSA prevalence was similar for both populations, but Caucasians with OSA tended to be more overweight with a larger neck circumference. Chinese patients had smaller, more restrictive facial structures. When BMI measurements were similar the Chinese participants suffered from more frequent and severe breathing pauses during sleep.

The study may have some limitations due to the nature of the sample. The patients came from two very different environments and socioeconomic and culture backgrounds. Researchers caution that those factors influence the health and lifestyle habits that lead to OSA.

OSA isn’t the only sleep disorder influenced by race. An abstract presented at SLEEP 2010 showed black, white and Hispanic people all responded differently to sleep deprivation and insomnia.


  1. 1 andrew 26 Aug
    I need  some advise how to stop sleep anepa
    I have being wearing the sleep anepa mask since last January
    I have not had a right sleep in a longtime
    I am not able for the mask

  2. 2 Noah 09 Feb
    Vinay, Your mother should consider maxillomandibular advancement surgery.  This surgery involves cutting the jaws and fixing them back on with metal plates in a more forward position, enlarging the airway and thereby reducing or eliminating sleep apnea.  I had life-threatening sleep apnea - 84 apneas per hour - I woke up blue and barely alive on many occasions.  After the surgery, I only have maybe 10 apneas per hour - a huge reduction, and enough to make me feel well rested at night.  I strongly suggest your mother consider this surgery.  It's the only effective surgical solution when someone cannot tolerate the masks (I couldn't fall asleep with them either, they're painful to wear).
  3. 3 Vinay 10 Nov
    Hi,My mom was recently diosganed with severe sleep apnea. She has been fitted with two different masks (nasal pads, and nasal mask) over the past couple of weeks and is still complaining of the feeling of pressure building up to the point of burping as well as EXTREME anxiety with relaxing with her gear on to fall asleep. She is beyond frustrated and exhausted and is longing for a good night's rest. Any thoughts, suggestions on these issues would be greatly appreciated.Thank you![] Reply:January 7th, 2011 at 8:02 pmYour mother’s experiences are not unusual for a new CPAP user. Learning to breathe out against the pressure takes some time to learn. Most CPAP machines have a “ramp” feature which allows a slow build up of pressure while the patient is falling asleep. I would make sure your mother is utilizing her ramp feature. (Most CPAPs allow a maximum of 45 minutes of ramp time.) It is challenging to sleep wearing a mask and headgear. Some suggestions would be to make sure she is tired and ready to go to sleep before she puts on the CPAP. Sometimes patients find it useful to wear the mask around the house while watching television or reading to get used to the feel of the mask. Remind your mother this takes a commitment on her part, but it is well worth the health benefits she will be gaining. Patience is the key.[]