Is Sleep Apnea Genetic? Here’s What The Science Says

is sleep apnea genetic

Is sleep apnea genetic? A common question asked by those who either don’t want to get it, or don’t want to pass it along to their kids.

In this article we’re going to break down the question “is sleep apnea genetic,” discuss what sleep apnea is, dive into the contributing factors such as family history and genetics, and look at treatment options such as sleep apnea pillows, and other devices. And hopefully you come away knowing everything you needed to know about sleep apnea with all of your questions answered.

Let’s dive in!

Understanding Sleep Apnea

obstructive sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes breathing to stop and start during sleep. It can have serious health consequences, including an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. In this article we’ll outline the different types of sleep apnea, its symptoms, diagnosing techniques and treatment alternatives available.

Two Types Of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive (OSA) and central (CSA). OSA occurs when the throat muscles relax during sleep and block the airway, while CSA is caused by a lack of signals from the brain to breathe. Symptoms include loud snoring, daytime fatigue or tiredness, difficulty concentrating, morning headaches or dry mouth upon waking up.

Diagnosis typically entails a physical examination followed by a polysomnogram test to gauge one’s brain waves, oxygen levels in blood stream and other physiological markers during sleep. Depending on the results of these tests, doctors may suggest lifestyle modifications such as shedding weight if overweight or quitting smoking; usage of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy which aids in keeping airways open; surgery to remove excess tissue in throat area; or dental devices like mandibular advancement splints to help keep your jaw forward so it doesn’t obstruct your airway while sleeping.

If left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious health implications such as high blood pressure and diabetes; therefore it is essential to seek medical attention immediately. If you suspect you’re suffering from sleep apnea, consult a physician to decide if further testing is necessary.

Sleep apnea is a grave sleep disorder that, if not addressed, may lead to dangerous medical outcomes. Genetic aspects have a significant impact on OSA, thus it is critical to understand their effects in order to utilize proper treatment approaches.

Key Takeaway:

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder characterized by the relaxation of throat muscles that block airways, or incorrect signals from the brain to breathe, leading to loud snoring and other symptoms. It occurs when the throat muscles relax and block the airway or when signals from the brain to breathe are not sent correctly, causing loud snoring and other symptoms. Diagnosis requires physical examination followed by polysomnogram test, with treatments ranging from lifestyle modifications to CPAP therapy or surgery.

Genetic Factors in Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a serious sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. Studies have indicated that a considerable portion of OSA cases, possibly up to 40%, could be attributed to hereditary components. 

In one study conducted among Hungarian twin pairs who underwent overnight polysomnography assessment, researchers found that OSA was 73% heritable. This indicates that heredity is a major factor in deciding if an individual develops this kind of sleep disorder or not.

Family History

Studies have shown that having a close family member with OSA increases one’s risk for developing the condition by as much as four times. This implies that there could be certain hereditary or genetic factors inherited from one’s parents which increase the chances of an individual getting OSA.

Body Type & Face Anatomy

Genetics also affect body weight and where fat is located on the body, both of which can contribute to the development of OSA. People with a higher body mass index may have an augmented amount of fat in the region around their neck and throat, raising the probability of airway blockage during sleep.

genetics traits that cause sleep apnea

Similarly, those with naturally larger necks or smaller jawbones may find themselves at greater risk for developing this condition due to physical characteristics inherited from their parents. People with a rounder face shape have an increased chance of having their airways blocked during sleep due to their facial structure being more likely to collapse when lying down. In addition, having a smaller jawbone or chin can also contribute towards this problem as these areas don’t provide enough support for the upper airway muscles during sleep.


Research from the National Library of Medicine indicates that male individuals are more prone to OSA than female. The reason behind this difference isn’t completely understood yet but it could be related to differences in hormones between genders or anatomical differences such as narrower throats among women compared with men.

Airway Size and Blockage

open airway vs small airway

Genes can also influence how wide a person’s airway is and how easily it becomes blocked during sleep; this is known as upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS). Those who inherit narrower or softer airways may be at higher risk for experiencing breathing difficulties while sleeping than those whose genes give them wider passages through which oxygen can flow freely without obstruction.

If you think that your family history or other factors suggest Obstructive Sleep Apnea, it is essential to consult a doctor for testing and diagnosis. Once diagnosed, treatment options such as lifestyle changes (e.g., weight loss), CPAP therapy devices, worn over the mouth and nose while sleeping, sleep apnea pillows, and surgical procedures depending upon severity levels observed can be explored.

Genetic components may have a considerable impact on the emergence of OSA, necessitating further investigation to fully understand their involvement. Non-genetic determinants, such as obesity, age, and lifestyle choices can significantly impact OSA’s emergence.

Key Takeaway:

Having a family member with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) increases the risk of developing it by fourfold, and genetic factors are thought to be responsible for up to 40% of cases. Given the potential genetic contribution to OSA, if you believe your risk of developing it is higher than normal, consulting a doctor for testing may be prudent.

Non-Genetic Risk Factors for OSA

Ok let’s talk about the things you can control to keep the chances of inheriting sleep apnea down. Not everything is genetic.


Obesity is a major contributor to the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), with approximately half of OSA sufferers being obese. Excess fat can cause the narrowing of your throat, making it difficult for air to pass while you sleep. Additionally, obesity increases the amount of soft tissue in your neck which can further restrict airflow. People who are overweight or obese should consider weight loss as a treatment option for OSA.

Lifestyle Choices

More lifestyle changes you can make that are non-hereditary influences on OSA are things like liquor consumption, smoking and drugs. Making poor lifestyle choices like drinking and smoking too much or drug use can contribute to sleep apnea.


There are some medications that increase your risk of sleep apnea. It’s good to talk to your doctor about these medicines and their side effects to make sure you’re not taking anything that is increasing your risk of developing sleep apnea.

Key Takeaway:

Obesity, lifestyle choices, and medications are the primary non-genetic risk factors for OSA. Men have double the chance of developing this condition than women due to hormonal or anatomical differences between genders. For those with excess weight, shedding pounds can be an effective way to reduce the chances of being afflicted by OSA.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) & Genetics

Central sleep apnea (CSA) is a form of sleep-disordered breathing that occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles responsible for controlling respiration. CSA differs from OSA, a condition in which the airway is obstructed or blocked while sleeping. While both forms of SADs (sleep apnea disorders) can have genetic components, studies have suggested that there is no direct evidence to suggest CSA is hereditary.

Research has suggested, though, that certain genes may be indirectly connected to the likelihood of experiencing CSA, including those responsible for managing serotonin and dopamine levels in the brainstem – two hormones involved with controlling respiration while you sleep. These findings suggest that some people may be more predisposed to developing central sleep apnea due to their genetic makeup limiting their serotonin and dopamine levels.

It is important for anyone experiencing symptoms such as snoring or pauses in breathing during sleep to speak with their doctor about getting tested for SADs like OSA and CSA so they can receive appropriate treatment if needed. Treatment can differ depending on the person, but generally include changes in lifestyle (e.g., slimming down and abstaining from drinking prior to sleep); CPAP; or surgery if needed. By understanding your own personal risks factors related to genetics and environment, you will be better equipped to make informed decisions about how best manage your health going forward, helping ensure you get quality restful nights’ sleeps.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) and genetics is a complex subject that requires further study to determine the exact relationship between the two. Considering other potential sources of CSA and associated dangers is essential.

Key Takeaway:

Central sleep apnea is a serious condition that can’t be inherited directly, however inheriting certain traits, such as lower production of sleep hormones, for example, may be a contributing factor. Discussing your symptoms with a medical professional is key to exploring potential treatments, such as CPAP or surgery. Taking the time to understand your own personal risks related to genetics and environment will help ensure better sleep in the future.

Other Causes/Risk Factors For SADs

alcohol is a contributing risk factor for sleep apnea

One common cause for SADs is obesity; being overweight increases the risk of OSA significantly due to excess fat tissue in the neck and throat area blocking airflow during sleep. Smokers and heavy drinkers are more prone to OSA, since the substances they consume can relax throat muscles which may then obstruct airflow during sleep. It’s important to note that even if you don’t fall into any high-risk categories mentioned above you could still experience signs and symptoms associated with SADs – it pays to get checked out.

Hormonal shifts in the lead-up to and following menopause may be linked to a heightened danger of developing SADs, as weakened muscles – including those in your throat – can result in airway closure during sleep. Other conditions such as asthma or allergies can also contribute towards this problem by triggering inflammation within your airways resulting in breathing difficulties at night time.

Keeping tabs on how much quality sleep you get each night is essential, as certain lifestyle choices can lead to airway obstructions during sleep cycles. Regularly using sedatives or tranquilizers, snoring loudly, having poor posture, and working long hours without enough restful sleep can all add up over time and eventually culminate in episodes of apneas. So stay vigilant; don’t let your guard down.

Although the exact cause of sleep apnea is unknown, there are several risk factors that may contribute to its development. Therefore, it is essential to be cognizant of these risk factors in order to take preventive steps when possible. Diagnosing sleep apnea requires pinpointing and assessing the related indications and manifestations of this condition.

Key Takeaway:

Sleep Apnea Disorders (SADs) are not only caused by genetics, but can be triggered by a variety of factors such as obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption and menopause. Lifestyle choices like taking sedatives or tranquilizers, snoring loudly, having poor posture and working long hours without enough sleep also increase one’s risk for developing SADs – so keep an eye on your lifestyle to stay ahead of the game.

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea


If left untreated, sleep apnea can have long-term health implications; therefore, diagnosis is essential to initiate treatment and improve the quality of life for those affected. A physical exam, medical history assessment, and testing such as PSG may be utilized for diagnosing sleep apnea.

During this exam, they will assess your overall health and look for signs or symptoms associated with OSA such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids, narrow airways, high blood pressure or obesity. They may also ask about any snoring you do at night and whether you feel sleepy during the day.

Your physician will take into account your medical history when forming a diagnosis, such as any existing conditions that could be connected to OSA (cardiovascular disease or diabetes), medications taken, alcohol intake, smoking practices, family record of sleep apnea; age group (middle-aged people being more vulnerable); gender (males are at greater risk than females); lifestyle components like dietary habits and recent modifications in weight. 

The next step is an overnight PSG test (polysomnogram) which helps measure various aspects of breathing while sleeping including oxygen levels in the blood stream, chest wall movement during respiration cycles and brain wave activity during different stages of sleep cycle. During this test electrodes are attached to the head scalp, face, chest and legs. It records information from these areas throughout the night which then helps doctors diagnose if someone has Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) or Central Sleep Apnea (CSA).

In addition to PSG, other tests like home sleep testing and oximetry may be used depending on individual cases. Home sleep testing measures airflow through nose and mouth, chest wall movements, and oxygen saturation levels using sensors placed on body parts. Oximetry measures oxygen level in blood through finger tip sensor connected with device worn around neck. Both of these tests help diagnose milder forms of OSA not detected through a PSG alone but still require interpretation from a qualified physician before finalizing the results and starting treatments accordingly.

Overall, proper diagnosis is key for treating obstructive sleep apnea effectively. Therefore, it’s important for people who suspect they may have it to get tested properly instead of self-diagnosing themselves based on online articles/blogs without consulting their primary care physicians first.

Key Takeaway:

Sleep apnea is a severe sleeping disorder that necessitates the correct identification to start treatment and enhance well-being. Physical exams, medical history reviews, polysomnography (PSG), home sleep testing and oximetry are all tests used to diagnose the condition accurately. Accurate diagnosis should only be performed by a qualified physician to avoid incorrect conclusions due to self-diagnosis.

Treatment Options For Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can have significant effects on quality of life and overall health. Fortunately, those suffering from sleep apnea can find relief through various treatment options that help to alleviate symptoms and improve their sleeping habits.

Lifestyle Changes

Making lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol before bedtime, losing weight, quitting smoking or reducing caffeine intake can be beneficial for people with sleep apnea. Additionally, making sure the bedroom environment is conducive to good sleep by keeping it dark and quiet can also help reduce symptoms of sleep apnea. A medical professional should be consulted prior to implementing any lifestyle changes, as certain modifications may not be suitable for all people depending on their health history or other conditions.

CPAP Therapy

CPAP therapy involves donning a mask that is connected via tubing to an air compressor which pumps pressurized air into the lungs during inhalation, thus keeping the airways open throughout the night for normal breathing patterns without any obstructions due to excess tissue in throat area or collapsed muscles around tongue base. This solution is often recommended when lifestyle modifications alone do not provide enough alleviation from symptoms related to OSA or CSA.

Key Takeaway:

CPAP therapy is a common solution for individuals with obstructive or central sleep apnea whose symptoms do not respond to lifestyle changes. It involves wearing a mask connected to an air compressor that pumps pressurized air into the lungs, allowing for uninterrupted breathing throughout the night.

FAQs in Relation to Is Sleep Apnea Genetic

Is sleep apnea genetic or hereditary?

Sleep apnea is a condition with both genetic and environmental roots, and certain gene variants have been linked to increased susceptibility. It is not always hereditary, but it does have a strong correlation with certain genes. Research indicates that those with certain gene variants are more likely to experience sleep apnea than individuals without them, and lifestyle choices such as smoking or obesity can also raise the risk of developing this disorder. Lifestyle habits, like smoking or being overweight, can still heighten the chances of having sleep apnea even if a person doesn’t have any of the related genetic markers.

Is sleep apnea generational?

No, sleep apnea is not necessarily a generational condition. Sleep apnea may be hereditary, yet this does not necessarily signify that each individual in the family will contract it or have a likelihood of getting it. Sleep apnea is caused by various factors such as age, weight, neck circumference and lifestyle habits which are all independent from one’s genetic makeup. Despite a familial history of sleep apnea, one’s risk for developing the disorder is not predetermined.

What type of person is most likely to develop sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can affect people of all ages, genders and backgrounds; however, certain groups are more prone to it than others. However, it is more common in certain groups such as men over the age of 40 who are overweight or obese; people with large necks (17 inches or greater); those with narrow airways due to anatomical features like a deviated septum; smokers; and individuals with family history of sleep apnea. Additionally, people using sedatives, tranquilizers or alcohol can be at higher risk for developing this condition.

What lifestyle factors cause sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a grave issue that can be brought on by multiple lifestyle elements. Going to bed late and not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to one’s health, as it increases the risk of developing sleep apnea. Being overweight or obese can also lead to the development of sleep apnea because excess fat tissue in the throat area restricts air flow during sleep. Additionally, smoking and drinking alcohol before bedtime are linked with an increased risk for developing this disorder due to their effects on breathing patterns while sleeping. Finally, certain medications may contribute to this condition due to their sedative properties which can cause difficulty in maintaining regular breathing during sleep.


In conclusion, sleep apnea is a complex condition that can have both genetic and non-genetic causes. While the exact cause of OSA remains unknown in many cases, research has shown that genetics may play an important role for some people. Other than genetics, lifestyle choices such as obesity or smoking can also increase the risk of developing OSA. It is advisable to seek medical advice if one has doubts regarding the genetic predisposition of sleep apnea, as a physician can provide diagnosis and management for any relevant underlying conditions.

If you are looking for solutions to improve your sleep, explore our blog and discover the best products that can help with genetic sleep apnea. Take control of your sleeping habits today and start getting a better night’s rest!