Is Sleep Apnea Genetic?

September 1, 2022
Senior woman and adult son, both at risk for sleep apnea in Melbourne

Do you have one or more relatives with sleep apnea in Melbourne? If so, you might be curious to learn if this condition is hereditary or if the risk for it is centered on other factors. Let’s talk about how your DNA may influence your chances of developing obstructive sleep apnea. We’ll also discuss some things you can do to lower your risk.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Genetic Factors

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition marked by repeated pauses in breathing throughout the night, which are caused by tissues collapsing into the airway. There are a few ways in which your risk for developing this condition can be influenced by your genes:

  • Body composition. Some people are genetically predisposed to obesity, which is a known risk factor for OSA. Genes can also influence where on your body fat tends to accumulate; individuals with more fatty tissue around their neck and abdomen are more likely to suffer from OSA.
  • Facial and airway anatomy. Genes can have a big impact on the shape of your various facial structures, including those that have a bearing on airway function. For example, you might have a deviated septum, crooked teeth, or other anatomical features that increase the risk of breathing problems during sleep.
  • Sleep schedule. Research indicates that genes can have an influence on a person’s natural sleep rhythms, including when they sleep and how well they sleep. These factors may have a bearing on whether you are likely to develop OSA.

Lowering Your Risk

Even if you have some genetic risk factors for OSA, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are doomed to develop this condition. You can lower your risk by:

  • Being careful to maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Practicing good sleep hygiene.
  • Making lifestyle choices that promote healthy breathing during sleep. For example, you should not drink alcohol in excess. It is also wise to sleep on your side rather than on your back.
  • Getting orthodontic treatment for dental misalignment.

Managing Sleep Apnea

Of course, in some cases, there is no way to avoid the development of sleep apnea. Fortunately, effective therapies are available that can help you get the high-quality rest you deserve. For example, you may be eligible for a custom oral appliance from a dentist. This small device can gently move your jaw forward, thereby helping to keep your airway open while you sleep.

Your genes can increase your risk of developing OSA. You cannot change your DNA, but you can manage your health and take steps to ensure that you get the sleep your body needs to feel and function its best.

Meet the Sleep Apnea Expert

Dr. Kenneth Mogell is double board-certified in dental sleep medicine. He has spent more than a decade helping patients conquer obstructive sleep apnea via oral appliance therapy. If you believe you have OSA, he and our team would be pleased to help you receive a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. To learn more about us and how we may be able to serve you, contact any of our convenient locations or call us at 321-313-5350.