Can You Genetically Inherit Sleep Apnea?

November 30, 2023

If you have seen one of your parents with a CPAP machine at night to manage their sleep apnea, it is okay to wonder whether this condition runs in the family or not. Our genes play a significant role in shaping who we are. Body shape, hair color, and even quirky abilities like rolling your tongue are often inherited from parents, but what about sleep apnea? Is it hereditary, too? Let’s take a look.

Sleep Apnea – Brief Overview

It is a very common yet least talked about sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses or complete halts in breathing per hour. There are three main types:

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): It is the most common form and occurs when throat muscles relax and obstruct airways during sleep.
  2. Central Sleep Apnea: Your brain sends incorrect signals to throat muscles, causing airway blockages.
  3. Complex Sleep Apnea: This form is the rarest as it is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Is Sleep Apnea A Genetic Disorder?

Now, let’s address the burning question – is sleep apnea a hereditary condition? While genetic factors may contribute to sleep apnea, your lifestyle, and overall health are the primary influencers. Although scientists have yet not found a clear-cut genetic link, specific factors may heighten your risk of developing this condition.

What Kind Of Genetic Factors Can Cause Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is not only about throat muscles blocking the airway. If OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) runs in your family, along with you being overweight, the chances of you suffering from it increase multifold. Here is a list of some factors that can increase your susceptibility:

  1.  A Small Lower Jaw: Inherited traits, like having a petite lower jaw, can serve as a major contributor to airway constriction.
  2. Large Tonsils: If you are genetically predisposed to having enlarged tonsils, it can hamper smooth airflow during sleep.
  3. Hypothyroidism: Sleeping patterns are greatly affected by thyroid hormones. If your pituitary gland fails to produce them to reach sufficient levels, it can impact sleep patterns.
  4. Thicker Neck: Your over-than-normal neck size can enhance the risk of sleep apnea.
  5. Gender: Interestingly, being a biological male increases the likelihood of this condition.
  6. Skull or Facial Abnormalities: Conditions like a cleft lip and palate may be linked to an elevated risk.
  7. Congenital Conditions: Disorders such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome play a major role.

When to Seek Medical Advice?

If you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned below, get in touch with our expert, Dr. Husein AliBhai, an active member of the American Dental Association, for help.

  • Snoring
  • Unwarranted daytime fatigue
  • Morning headaches
  • Irritability
  • Choking in your sleep

Closing Note

While sleep apnea is not purely a genetic issue, understanding your family’s history can help you deal with the disorder in a much better manner. Your genetic makeup might influence it, but lifestyle choices and health play pivotal roles in sleep apnea. You can contact Saifee Family Dentistry at (281) 350-5600 to learn more about your issue and how we can help. For details, visit us at 21212 Kuykendahl Rd E, Spring, TX 77379, next to GameStop and Tutti Frutti Yogurt Bar.


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