Can Genetics Cause Sleep Apnea?

Can Genetics Cause Sleep Apnea?

Posted by Dr. Bo Crofoot Jan 03,2023

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Sleep apnea is a fairly common problem, and every night millions of people miss out on countless hours of sleep because of it. And although the condition is known for causing sleep disruption, it can also lead to numerous other health issues if left unaddressed. But determining the cause of sleep apnea isn’t always easy, as there are normally many factors to take into consideration. Believe it or not, genetics is actually one of them! Here’s more from your sleep dentist about how your genes can impact sleep apnea, along with some ways that you can actively lower your risk.

Genetic Factors that Contribute to Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea, commonly referred to as OSA, is a chronic condition that’s characterized by repeated pauses in breathing throughout the night, often caused by blockage in the airway. This blockage is normally caused by the soft tissues of the mouth and throat collapsing.

There are several different explanations for this obstruction, many of which stem from health and lifestyle choices. However, some of these reasons can also be hereditary! Here are a few ways in which your genes can impact your risk of developing sleep apnea:

  • Facial anatomy – Your genes can affect the shape of your face, including your skull width, nose length and width, and facial depth. In turn, this affects the width of your airway, which influences how easily it can become blocked.
  • Body fat – Your genes also impact your body weight to a certain extent, as well as where fat is located on your body. Studies show that people who are obese are roughly ten times more likely to suffer from OSA.
  • Breathing control – Research on the link between genetics and breathing control is still somewhat lacking, but experts suspect that your genes can influence the muscles and neural signals that are involved during respiration.
  • Circadian rhythm – Your innate sleep cycle is heavily influenced by your genes, as is how well you actually sleep.

Tips for Lowering Your Risk of Sleep Apnea

Fortunately, you aren’t entirely helpless against sleep apnea, even if the condition is influenced by your genes. Here are some ways that you can dynamically lower your risk of sleep apnea:

  • Try to maintain a healthy body weight by eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise.
  • Make other lifestyle choices that promote healthy breathing during sleep, such as not drinking alcohol before bedtime or smoking cigarettes/using tobacco products.
  • Try to reduce or remove other potential sources of sleep disruption such as light entering the room, warmer temperatures, pet dandruff, etc.
  • Aim to establish a regular bedtime routine in which you go to bed around the same time every night.
  • If you suffer from dental misalignment, oral appliance therapy can assist with correcting your jaw’s position, which will result in better airflow.

About the Author

Dr. Bo Crofoot received his DDS from Creighton University and has proudly served patients and families in the Rexburg community for several years. His practice is thrilled to offer a wide range of services including sleep apnea therapy. If you have any questions about the article or would like to arrange a consultation, you can contact Dr. Crofoot online or by phone for assistance: (208) 656-2225.

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