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Is Sleep Apnea Hereditary? Understanding the Genetic Factors

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Key Takeaways from the Article:

  • Types Of Sleep Apnea

  • Genetic Link of Sleep Apnea

  • Risk Factors for developing Sleep Apnea


Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide, causing disruptions in breathing during sleep and leading to poor sleep quality and potential health risks. Many individuals wonder if sleep apnea can be hereditary, with concerns about their own risk if they have a family history of the condition. In this article, we will explore the connection between genetics and sleep apnea, shedding light on the genetic factors associated with its development.

Types Of Sleep Apnea:

Section 1: Types of Sleep Apnea Sleep apnea can be categorized into two main types: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). While both types involve breathing interruptions during sleep, it is OSA that has a genetic link, whereas CSA is not genetically linked.

Genetic Link to Sleep Apnea:

Sleep Apnea Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway partially collapses, obstructing the airflow and making it challenging to breathe during sleep. Research conducted by the Sleep Foundation has revealed that genetic factors play a role in the likelihood of developing OSA. While having a family history of OSA does not guarantee that an individual will develop the disorder, it increases the risk significantly.

Environmental and Lifestyle Factors : Although genetics contribute to about 40% of cases of OSA, the remaining 60% is influenced by environmental and lifestyle factors. These factors include obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyle, and certain medical conditions. Interestingly, obesity, a major risk factor for OSA, can have underlying genetic causes. Thus, there is an indirect hereditary link between genetic factors associated with obesity and the development of OSA.

While research indicates a clear genetic connection to OSA, scientists have not yet identified the specific genes responsible for the condition. Ongoing studies are focused on uncovering the genetic markers and variations that contribute to the development of OSA. This knowledge could potentially pave the way for more personalized treatment approaches and targeted interventions in the future.

Risk Factors for Developing Sleep Apnea:

Risk factors for developing obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • obesity

  • having a thicker neck, which may narrow your airway

  • being male

  • family history

  • aging

  • menopause

  • using alcohol or sedatives

  • having a small lower jaw

  • having large tonsils

  • smoking

  • nasal congestion

  • hypothyroidism


Understanding the hereditary aspect of sleep apnea is crucial for individuals with a family history of the condition. While having a family member with sleep apnea increases the risk, it does not guarantee that an individual will develop the disorder. It is essential for those with a family history of sleep apnea to prioritize regular screenings, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and seek medical advice if they experience symptoms of sleep apnea. By staying informed and taking proactive steps, individuals can effectively manage their sleep apnea and improve their overall well-being.

To read more about Sleep Apnea you can read following more articles related to these issues on further blogs

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