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Over a million in the UK have undiagnosed Sleep Apnoea

Loud snoring and choking during sleep are keep indicators of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

According to research by the Office of Health Economics for the British Lung Foundation (BLF), over 1 million people in the UK are living with undiagnosed sleep apnoea.¹

An estimated 1.5 million people have the condition - but only 330,000 are receiving treatment.

The report stated that investment in the awareness, diagnosis and treatment of OSA could save the NHS up to £28m. It could also prevent up to 40,000 road traffic accidents every year.

However, the number of those with undiagnosed sleep apnoea appears to be increasingly rapidly.

Why the number of undiagnosed sleep apnoea cases is growing

The NHS conducts approximately 75,000 sleep studies per year.² Even if nobody else developed the condition, it would take well over a decade to clear the current "backlog" at the current rate.

However, the number of adults classed as obese in the UK has roughly doubled between 1993 and 2016, from around 7 million to just under 14 million.³ That's around 300,000 additional people becoming obese every year.

Even if only one in four of those developed sleep apnoea, the NHS would be "breaking even" with the diagnoses.

However, the British Lung Foundation state that approximately 40% of people who are obese have OSA.¹ That's approximately 120,000 people every year developing sleep apnoea; over 50% more than the number the NHS are currently diagnosing annually. Therefore the number of people with undiagnosed sleep apnoea is actually growing at nearly 50,000 every year.

This alarming deficit is why the BLF are pushing to raise awareness and increase investment in sleep apnoea. It is also why the number of patients opting for a private sleep test are growing rapidly.

How to skip the OSA testing queue

Testing for Sleep Apnoea is simple, and can be done in-home Testing for Sleep Apnoea is simple, and can be done in-home

Increasingly, private healthcare companies are helping people to get the treatment they need. An in-home sleep study for example, for £199, provides results within two weeks. Treatment can often begin days later. The convenience and time-saving nature of an in-home test is becoming an ever-popular solution. It can avoid a lengthy wait for those concerned that they have sleep apnoea.

For those who suspect they have sleep apnoea, it is recommended to either speak to your GP as soon as possible, or to consider an in-home sleep test. Left untreated, it can lead to serious health conditions such as stroke, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, the excessive daytime sleepiness it can cause puts you at risk of being in an accident, and can cause problems at work and at home.

As you can see from the numbers, the NHS is under strain from the sheer number of people requiring treatment. The earlier you join the queue (or bypass it with an in-home sleep test), the better for your long-term health; and often, short-term happiness.

What is Sleep Apnoea?

Sleep Apnoea causes your breathing to be interrupted during sleep. The airways collapses, causing a brief choke. This causes fragmented sleep but often will not wake the person up. Therefore they wake in the morning unaware this has been happening, but feeling tired and unrefreshed.

Being overweight increase the risk of sleep apnoea. Because excess fatty tissue around the neck makes a blockage of the airway more likely. However weight is not always the cause; other factors such as a deviated septum, or a recessed lower jaw, may also be the cause.

Those with undiagnosed sleep apnoea are often feel excessively tired during the day. They may also have been told they snore loudly, and often will acknowledge they are overweight (even if only a little). If this sounds familiar, discussing the possibility of Sleep Apnoea with your GP should be a priority. Alternatively, you may prefer to consider an in-home sleep test for the convenience and confidentiality they provide.


  1. OSA Toolkit 2015. British Lung Foundation. Retrieved 6th August 2018
  2. Sleep Matters Newsletter - August 2013Sleep Apnoea Trust Association. Retrieved 27th September 2013.
  3. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-diet/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-diet-england-2018 and https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/articles/overviewoftheukpopulation/july2017 Accessed 6th August 2018


Author: Jenny Hall

About author: Jenny Hall is a clinical manager at Baywater Healthcare. She has extensive specialist clinical experience from Regional Nurse Adviser through to Senior Nurse Adviser, Service Lead and Contract Manager. She has provided leadership for the Regional Nurse Advisers ensuring best practice, implementation of National Guidance and Clinical Governance. Ms. Hall has worked with Baywater Healthcare since 2013, with leadership responsibility in delivering Home Oxygen and Long-Term Conditions services. Her clinical team focuses on delivering services closer to home which offer the NHS value with optimum clinical outcomes. Previously, Ms. Hall provided leadership to Regional Nurse Advisors with Air Products, a company providing home oxygen services to Wales, East Midlands and North London. She has served as a Senior COPD National Trainer and Nurse Adviser COPD Response with Innovex, ensuring highest competencies were maintained and best practices delivered. Ms. Hall has a Ba Honours Degree as a Registered General Nurse from Oxford Brookes University and MSc Health Studies from Staffordshire University. She completed Respiratory Education and Training Courses and the Edinburgh Sleep Course. Jenny Hall’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-hall-34331b60/

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