Is Sleep Apnea A Genetic Condition?

May 30, 2024

If you have seen your parents struggle with sleep apnea, you might wonder if the same awaits you. After all, DNA plays a significant role in shaping us. But is sleep apnea genetic as well? Does it fall under the category of hereditary conditions? Let’s find out.

What Is Sleep Apnea And Its Types?

Sleep apnea is a prevalent disorder and is characterized by repeated pauses or complete stops in breathing throughout the night. This disruption in breathing patterns leads to a lot of problems, including daytime fatigue, headaches, and an increased risk of heart disease. There are three main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): It is the most common form and occurs when throat muscles relax and block the airway during sleep.
  • Central Sleep Apnea: In this condition, the brain fails to send the proper signals to your breathing muscles, leading to airway collapse.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea: It is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Is Sleep Apnea A Hereditary Condition?

While genetics may contribute to sleep apnea susceptibility, it is not something that straightforward. Factors like lifestyle, and overall health play a much more significant role.

You must note that obstructive sleep apnea is not solely about throat muscles collapsing. Here’s how family history and certain physical attributes can heighten your risk:

  • Facial Structure: A smaller lower jaw is a common inherited trait and a contributor to airway narrowing during sleep.
  • Tonsil Size: If you are genetically predisposed to large tonsils, they obstruct airflow while you sleep.
  • Thyroid Function: Sleep patterns are heavily influenced by thyroid hormones. If your family has a history of underactive thyroid, known as hypothyroidism, it can disrupt sleep architecture.
  • Neck Circumference: An abnormally thick neck is a risk factor for sleep apnea.
  • Gender: Although an interesting fact, men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women.
  • Facial and Skull Abnormalities: Conditions such as cleft lip and palate increase the risk of developing this condition.

When to Talk to a Doctor

If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek professional help immediately:

  • Loud snoring
  • Heightened daytime fatigue, even after a full night’s sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Irritability
  • Episodes of choking or gasping during sleep

Closing Note

While genetics does play a role in increasing your susceptibility to sleep apnea, it is not the sole factor that determines whether or not you will have it. Your lifestyle choices and overall health affects a lot. Maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, and avoiding smoking can significantly reduce your risk of developing sleep apnea.

If you have more questions in mind, feel free to contact our experienced team led by Dr. Avni Goel, a doctor of dental medicine from Temple University in Philadelphia at Insight Dental Group. She is always here to guide you through everything. Reach out to us at (713) 623-0700 to request an appointment today.



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