Undiagnosed sleep apnea is highly prevalent among hospital patients, and treating it after they’re discharged can improve their chances of long-term survival. This is according to a ResMed-funded study published in the American Journal of Medicine.

The study screened more than 5,000 hospitalized patients; 18.7% were estimated to have sleep apnea. Those who tested positive for sleep apnea were placed on positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy post-discharge. Patients who were adherent to therapy in the first 3 months had an improved chance of survival over the next 20 months, compared with those not adherent on PAP.

“We have a profound opportunity to identify and help tens of thousands of hospitalized patients who don’t know they have a dangerous but treatable sleep condition,” says Sunil Sharma, MD, the study’s principal investigator, in a release. “These results show just how important a hospital can be in addressing these issues.”

ResMed chief medical officer Carlos M. Nunez, MD, says, “Up to 70 million Americans have sleep apnea, and only a fraction are diagnosed. When a medical condition brings them to a hospital, it’s a prime opportunity to see if they also have sleep apnea, which they can then address—and potentially live longer for doing so.”