Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Young Adults Who Stutter


Merlo, Sandra; Jacobs, Molly M.; & Briley, Patrick M. (2022). Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Young Adults Who Stutter. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups.


Purpose: Evidence of a linkage between developmental stuttering and insomnia has been suggested in earlier studies. This study explores the prevalence of four symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in individuals with and without stuttering.
Method: Frequency of snoring/stoppage of breath, sleep fragmentation, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue were analyzed using data from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), a nationally representative survey study following 13,564 U.S. respondents over 20 years. Binary and multinomial logistic regressions were used to assess the relationship between stuttering and all four OSA symptoms, controlling for sex, age, race, ethnicity, body mass index, and potentially confounding conditions. To account for the occurrence of multiple symptoms, a structural equation framework modeled the relationships between the symptoms, the control variables, and stuttering simultaneously.
Results: The sample included 261 participants (1.7% of the total respondents) who identified themselves as people who stutter, composed of 169 men and 92 women. Compared with their fluent counterparts, individuals who stutter report that they snore or stop breathing during sleep (odds ratio [OR] = 1.41), experience sleep fragmentation (OR = 1.33), have difficulty concentrating (OR = 1.85), and experience fatigue (OR = 1.04). The structural equation framework indicated that snoring/stoppage of breath, sleep fragmentation, and difficulty concentrating are significantly and positively related to one another and to stuttering.
Conclusions: Speech-language pathologists should be aware of these symptoms among young adults who stutter and consider that they are suggestive of OSA. Additional research is needed to fully assess the directionality of influence in the relationship of stuttering and symptoms of OSA.




Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups


Merlo, Sandra
Jacobs, Molly M.
Briley, Patrick M.

Year Published




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