Loud snoring at night could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a common condition that can deprive people of sound sleep and put them at higher risk for illness and accident.

Some 25 million Americans have OSA, according to the National Institutes of Health. Other symptoms include morning headaches, dry mouth, sore throat, and excessive irritability.

OSA causes a person’s airway to intermittently constrict or close while sleeping. Loud snoring and gasping, which can disrupt sound sleep dozens of times per hour, are telltale signs of the condition, according to the American Sleep Association.

OSA sufferers face higher risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, and other serious conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

They can also experience daytime drowsiness, dulled reaction, and difficulty with focus and attention. Excessive drowsiness is a factor in some 6,000 fatal vehicle accidents each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It also contributed to nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island in 1979, and Chernobyl in 1986, say experts at the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School

Shift workers are at higher risk for sleep deprivation, experts say.

Not everyone who snores has OSA, say experts at the Mayo Clinic, but they should talk to their doctors about the issue.

Educating employees about OSA and the value of good sleep is one way employers can help, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Staff at the Capital Blue Cross Connect health and wellness center at the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley, Center Valley, for example, can do just that for employees, health plan members, and walk-in visitors.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment. With CPAP, carefully calibrated bursts of air delivered through a mask keep the airways open during sleep. However, health experts say, losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can ease symptoms for many people.