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Is Sleep Apnea Hereditary?

Is Sleep Apnea Something That Gets Passed Down Through Generations?

 

When a member of your family is diagnosed with a health problem, it’s normal to wonder if you’ll get it as well. If you grew up with a parent who suffers from sleep apnea, you may wonder, “Is sleep apnea genetic?” It’s a perfectly reasonable inquiry. We don’t know what percentage of the population has sleep apnea, but we do know that it’s a fairly prevalent sleep problem that affects a large number of people1. Given the wide range of difficulties that can result from sleep apnea, anyone with a family member who suffers from the disorder may find it especially important to determine if there is a genetic link. You’ve arrived at the right location if you feel as though we’re speaking directly to you. Continue reading to find out more about the risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, as well as whether any of these illnesses has a hereditary component.

While there are a variety of circumstances that can put someone at risk for sleep apnea, there is a good chance that it is genetic. There’s a good possibility you’re suffering from sleep apnea if you have a serious condition like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or an endocrine or metabolic disorder. Smoking and the use of alcohol, sedatives, and opioids are all known to raise the risk of sleep apnea.

However, if you are suffering signs of sleep apnea such as loud snoring, loss of energy, daytime lethargy (even after a full night’s sleep), morning headaches, or sadness, you should talk to your doctor about a family history of this serious disorder. Physical features inherited from your parents, such as your face and skull shape, upper airway muscle characteristics, and body fat content and distribution, may all have a role in whether or not you develop sleep apnea.

A high body mass index (BMI) – your height to weight ratio – is commonly associated with sleep apnea. Obesity is linked to sleep apnea, but it can also affect those who are in good shape. Many people, including men and women, the elderly, and even toddlers, can suffer from sleep apnea. Some of the same symptoms that adults have, such as snoring, noisy breathing, chronic mouth breathing, restless sleep, and lethargy or tiredness, can also be seen in children.

 

Other Factors that Contribute to OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea)

 

OSA is caused by a variety of reasons. Some may be passed down genetically, while others may be the result of poor dietary or exercise habits or general ill health. Obesity is the most common contributing factor.

Obesity runs in families, whether it’s due to poor eating habits or pure genetics. Excess tissues, water weight, and puffiness in general might contribute to less room in your throat as you relax your muscles and fall asleep if you have excessive weight on your throat and face.

Obesity does not appear to be the exclusive cause of OSA. Craniofacial structures (bones in your face and neck) may cause complications by not allowing enough space for your fatty tissues. Because we all have distinct facial shapes, your inherited genetic composition could have a role in whether or not you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

What’s the Difference Between Heredity and Genetics?

 

Let’s take a moment to learn more about genetics and heredity. It’s usual to use the two terms interchangeably when discussing medical disorders that are handed down, however this is wrong.

Your body’s genes are made of deoxyribonucleic acid, as you may recall from junior level biology (DNA). If your body were a house, DNA would be the primary material used to construct it. Over 20,000 genes make up your body, and 99 percent of them are the same in almost everyone.

What about the other 1%? Heredity refers to information such as hair and eye colour, as well as predispositions to specific medical diseases, that is handed down through generations via genes.

While genes are something that your body has, heredity is the correct term to use when discussing whether a trait you have was passed down from your parents’ genes or something that your body created over time.

 

What are the warning signs of sleep apnea?

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Loud snoring.
  • Observed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep.
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking.
  • Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat.
  • Morning headache.
  • Difficulty concentrating during the day

Does sleep apnea ever go away?

For the most part, sleep apnea is a chronic condition that does not go away. Anatomy tends to remain fixed, especially after adolescence has ended. Therefore, children with sleep apnea may retain hope for the condition being successfully and definitively treated.

What is the main cause of sleep apnea?

In adults, the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is excess weight and obesity, which is associated with the soft tissue of the mouth and throat. During sleep, when throat and tongue muscles are more relaxed, this soft tissue can cause the airway to become blocked.

What age does sleep apnea start?

Obstructive sleep apnea affects many children and is most commonly found in children between 2 and 6 years of age, but can occur at any age.