10 Risk Factors for Developing Sleep Apnea

Even though sleep apnea can affect anyone regardless of gender, weight, or age, these risk factors indicate a higher chance of having or developing Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA):

1. Anatomically Short and Thick Neck:

Suffering from anorexia. Girl holding a tape measure around her neck, on gray background

People with large neck circumferences tend to have narrowed airways as a result. Men with a 17 inch neck size and women with a 16 inch neck size are at higher risk. Another risk factor is excess skin from the chin to the neck, often referred to as a turkey neck.

2. Family History

If you have family members who suffer from OSA or snoring, you may be at increased risk. There is a hereditary link associated with sleep apnea.

3. Enlarged Tonsils or Adenoids

Your tonsils and/or adenoids may become enlarged, which lessens the amount of room for air to pass through your airway. In children, this is the most common cause of sleep apnea, in which removal is the most effective solution.

4. Jaw Structure

A lower jaw that is undersized compared to the upper jaw (retrognathia) is a risk factor that can lead to sleep apnea.

5. Being Overweight

Burger on a weight scale

Fat deposits around the neck and chin may obstruct your breathing. Keep in mind though, not everyone who has sleep apnea is overweight. Thin people suffer from OSA as well.

6. Smoking

Smokers are three times more likely to suffer from OSA than their non-smoking counterparts. Smoking tends to cause inflammation and fluid retention in the airway, resulting in less space for air to pass through the airway.

7. Alcohol and Other Sedatives

These substances cause the muscles in your throat to relax, exacerbating sleep breathing issues such as OSA.

8. Mouth Breathing

Sleeping with the mouth open is a sign that the nasal airway is obstructed. Nasal obstruction causes the jaw to drop, reducing the diameter of the pharyngeal airway and increasing the likelihood of obstructive sleep apnea. If you know a sleeping mouth breather, they may be suffering from sleep apnea.

9. Being Male

Men are projected to be twice as likely to have sleep apnea. This gap narrows as age increases. Once women reach menopause, the ratio is almost equal.

10. Age

OSA occurs significantly more often in adults that are older than 40.

If you are a loved one have any of these risk factors, consult with a physician about the possibility of having this sleeping disorder. Keep in mind that 1 in 5 adults have at least mild OSA.

Take this short At Risk Quiz to see how many signs of sleep apnea you have and what you can do about it.


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