The costs of untreated sleep apnea reach further than just health issues. It is estimated that in the U.S., the average untreated sleep apnea patient's annual health care costs $1,336 more than an individual without sleep apnea.
This may cause $3.4 billion/year in additional medical costs. Whether medical cost savings occur with treatment of sleep apnea remains to be determined.
The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study estimated in 1993 that roughly one in every 15 Americans was affected by at least moderate sleep apnea.
It also estimated that in middle-age as many as nine percent of women and 24 percent of men were affected, undiagnosed and untreated.
The clinical picture of this condition has long been recognized as a character trait, without an understanding of the disease process. The term "Pickwickian syndrome" that is sometimes used for the syndrome was coined by the famous early 20th century physician William Osler, who must have been a reader of Charles Dickens. The description of Joe, "the fat boy" in Dickens's novel The Pickwick Papers, is an accurate clinical picture of an adult with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.