Is Sleep Apnea Hereditary?

Feb 7 2023

Sleep apnea is a common health condition that involves repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. As a result, you might wake up gasping for air throughout the night or might not even realize you are waking up repeatedly. These episodes can cause daytime fatigue, headaches and drowsiness that impacts every aspect of your life. 

Sleep apnea has detrimental effects on one’s health and can increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke. If you have sleep apnea, you might wonder if you inherited this condition or if there are other factors influencing your risk. Regardless, a compassionate dentist at Distinctive Dental Solutions can help you better understand your sleep apnea. 

Is Sleep Apnea Related to Genetics?

Research has found a few genetic factors that are linked to an increased risk of having obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), in which tissues in the throat block the airways during sleep. Contrastingly, central sleep apnea, which is caused by signaling issues between the brain and the muscles that control breathing, is most commonly caused by non-genetic factors. 

People tend to have a higher risk of getting OSA if they have a close family member who also has this condition. Genetics can also affect how frequently pauses in breathing occur, as measured by the Apnea-Hypopnea Index. 

What Factors Influence Predisposition to OSA?

There are several ways that genetics can increase the risk of developing OSA: 

  • Body Fat. Genetics influence body fat storage, which can make it more likely for someone to develop OSA. People who have obesity have a risk that’s 10 times higher. 
  • Face Anatomy. Genes greatly impact how a person’s face and skull are shaped, which can impact nose structure, facial depth and skull width. The bone structure of the nose determines the airway’s dimensions and makes it more likely for them to become blocked. 
  • Breathing Control. Genetics play a role in how muscles and neural signals that control breathing function. This can increase the risk of sleep apnea. 
  • Sleep and Circadian Rhythm. Genes influence your natural sleep cycles and risk of other sleep disorders. 

Even though there have been over 20 years of research done on sleep apnea, there are still many mysteries surrounding what genes influence the risk of OSA. Our dentists consider these known risk factors as we find treatments that may work for your individual circumstances. 

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

There are several main causes of sleep apnea to be aware of, including:

  • Obesity: Individuals with obesity have a much higher risk of developing OSA, and their condition is more likely to be severe. 
  • Body Type: How you carry your weight impacts whether your throat and neck are more likely to become obstructed during sleep. 
  • Biological Sex: Men have a higher risk of OSA in their younger years, while women have a higher risk after menopause. 
  • Face Anatomy: A narrow airway and the placement of bones in the nose and jaw can increase the risk of OSA.
  • Age: OSA typically becomes more common in older age. 

Talk to a Dentist

We can help build a custom mouthpiece to mitigate your OSA symptoms. Contact Distinctive Dental Solutions today to discuss your needs.



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