Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is one of the most common and most dangerous sleep disorders. Yet, more than half the people who have it aren’t diagnosed, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Sleep apnea happens when not enough air enters the lungs while sleeping. A sufferer will have repeated pauses in breathing that last 10 seconds or longer. Snoring is often an indicator that there is an obstruction of some sort in the upper airway between the mouth and where the air goes into the lungs. The condition often impacts seemingly unrelated areas.

“Untreated sleep apnea can wreak havoc with your appetite hormones,” says Edward Grandi, executive director of the American Sleep Apnea Association in Washington, D.C. “People who are tired during the day have a tendency to eat foods high in carbohydrates and sugar. They are eating these things because they need something for energy to help them get through the day.”

Because it’s more commonly found in men, women are often misdiagnosed. “Doctors will think they are depressed because they are listless, don’t enjoy sex and have a tough time dragging around. They are given medicine that doesn’t help. In actuality, it might be that some of these women have sleep apnea.”

Young children, points out Grandi, also tend to be overlooked. “Their behavior can be mistaken for attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder. But sleepy children don’t slow down; they start going faster. If you have a child who is hyperactive, has bad behavior, difficulty sleeping and is all over the bed, talk to a pediatrician to see if that child needs to be screened for sleep apnea.”

A custom-fit mouthpiece is prescribed to treat the disorder. For vanity reasons, most people dislike it, but Grandi advises, “It’s the easiest kind of medical attention you can give yourself. You do it while you sleep. You wake up and feel so refreshed.”

Take our Snore Score quiz in the February 2011 issue of EBONY Magazine.