Is sleep apnea hereditary?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects the muscles of the throat and causes the windpipe to narrow or close while an individual is asleep. Common symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring or gasping for air during sleep, insomnia, headaches, dry mouth and excessive sleepiness during the day.

The disorder could be passed down from parent to offspring, but it also depends on other factors, such as physiology, lifestyle and environment.

How do genetics show the possibility that sleep apnea runs in your family?

In genetics, this concept is called predisposal. It means that you are likely to develop the disorder if your parents had it. There is no guarantee that you will have the disease, but your chances are higher. This is because you may inherit some characteristics that influence the occurrence of the disorder, such as:

– Breathing problems such as asthma, allergies, and other respiratory diseases originating from the brain.

– Obesity as excess weight leads to fat deposits around your upper airway, which can obstruct breathing.

– Ethnic predisposition, research suggests that people originating from Africa, Hispanica, and Pacific Islands may be predisposed to the disorder.


It may be that sleep apnea is not caused by genetics, but by characteristics that make it possible to have the disorder, instead. The physical features include narrow nostrils, a small jawline, a receding chin, as well as an oversized tongue, uvula, and tonsils. If you notice some of these characteristics on your family members, you are more likely to develop sleep apnea because these characteristics can block airflow and affect breathing patterns.

Environment and lifestyle

Like obesity and other related disorders that patients could be predisposed by shared genetics, sleep apnea can also be caused by your environment and lifestyle. In simpler terms, you are more likely to develop sleep apnea if you eat a high-calorie diet and do not do enough exercise. The good news is, you have control over these factors. You should, therefore, practice good health by eating a balanced diet and doing regular exercise.

What to do if you suspect you have sleep apnea?

Loud snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, but not everyone who has the disorder snores. Visit your doctor and get a diagnosis or treatments such as the use of CPAP Machine.

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