Genetic factors are linked to many illnesses, from a predisposition to certain types of cancer to a tendency for high blood pressure. If you have seen a loved one—perhaps a parent or grandparent—struggle to manage their sleep apnea, you may have concerns that you will develop sleep apnea due to hereditary factors.
While there is no clear cut answer on whether sleep apnea itself is hereditary, both central and obstructive sleep apnea have inherited factors that can trigger sleep apnea.
Central And Obstructive Sleep Apnea Have Hereditary Factors
For a quick overview, let's clarify what is central sleep apnea and what is obstructive sleep apnea.
- Central sleep apnea is due to neurological issues that cause your brain to send the wrong signals to the muscle groups that control your breathing, causing it to stop periodically.
- Obstructive sleep apnea is a mechanical issue, where the muscles located in the back of your throat become too relaxed. These slack muscles block your airway, either partially or completely.
There is also mixed sleep apnea, which is a mix of central and obstructive sleep apnea. In many cases, the treatment for all three types of sleep apnea will include the use of a PAP machine. Also, these different types of sleep apnea all carry genetic factors. However, there is less evidence supporting that central sleep apnea is hereditary, aside from certain heart-related conditions.
In the case of obstructive sleep apnea, there is far more research that points to obstructive sleep apnea having genetic factors, with it being about 40% hereditary. As obstructive sleep apnea is also the more common type, let's focus on its hereditary factors.
Factors That Contribute To Inherited Obstructive Sleep Apnea
There are a number of factors that you can inherit that can contribute to the development of obstructive sleep apnea, such as:
- Large tonsils - Often, when one parent is born with large tonsils, that trait will show up in their children. Large tonsils are one of the significant contributors to childhood sleep apnea.
- Obesity - The genetic impact of obesity can range from 25% to as high as 80%, according to some researchers. If you have one or more parents and blood relatives that are obese, you can assume that your genetic predisposition to obesity is high, as well as the often-accompanying sleep apnea.
- Hyperthyroidism - Both non-autoimmune and autoimmune hyperthyroidism have hereditary links, often directly inherited from a parent. The development of hyperthyroidism often puts direct pressure on the airway, leading to sleep apnea that requires separate management from hyperthyroidism.
- Thicker neck - If one or more parents have a thick neck, it is more likely that you will inherit this trait, particularly if you are male. Having more mass around your neck can lead to obstructive sleep apnea, as it puts more pressure on your neck muscles and airway.
- Small lower jaw - As with the thicker neck, a smaller lower jaw is often a hereditary trait, which contributes to sleep apnea.
- Nasal congestion - Whether it is triggered by inherited allergies or hereditary enlarged adenoids, those who have nasal congestion are also more at risk of developing sleep apnea.
Early Testing Essential To Treat And Manage Sleep Apnea
If you recognize some of the above hereditary sleep apnea risk factors and find yourself suffering from exhaustion, then it is essential that you get yourself tested for sleep apnea. The sooner your obstructive sleep apnea is identified, the sooner you can protect yourself from the dangerous side-effects of untreated sleep apnea.
So, if you have any concerns that you may have obstructive sleep apnea, you can order our at-home sleep apnea test kit and find out one way or another if you have sleep apnea.