Maybe you grew up with a parent that had to undergo sleep apnea treatment at some point. Or maybe you’re a parent yourself that has recently had to wrestle with the disorder. In either case, there’s most likely a nagging question in your mind: can sleep apnea be passed down from parent to child? Knowing well in advance to watch out for signs of sleep apnea could end up saving you from serious health issues later down the line. Here’s what you need to know about the role that genetics does (and does not) play in the development of a sleep disorder.
Is Sleep Apnea Really Hereditary?
A sleep apnea study has found that roughly 40 percent of the disorder can be attributed to genetics; the other 60 percent is related to your environment or your lifestyle. In other words, while genetics is far from the only reason you might suffer from sleep apnea, it is a significant risk factor. That said, while the link has been clearly established, it’s not entirely clear which genes are responsible.
It should also be pointed out that some of the underlying causes for sleep apnea might be linked to your genes. For example, some people are predisposed to obesity. This, in turn, can make them more likely to suffer from sleep apnea since being overweight can increase the risk of tissues or muscles in your mouth and throat relaxing and falling back on the airway.
What are the Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea?
Whether they’re related to your genes or not, it’s important to remember the various risk factors for sleep apnea so that you can react appropriately if you happen to notice any of the symptoms. Such risk factors might include:
- Being overweight for any reason
- Having a naturally thicker neck (which in many cases means your airway is narrower than normal)
- Being male or being postmenopausal
- Having a relatively small lower jaw
- Having tonsils that are larger than normal (which is typically the case for younger children with the disorder)
- Using alcohol, sedatives, or cigarettes
- Suffering from nasal congestion
When Do You Need to See a Sleep Dentist?
You should get in touch with a sleep dentist if you’re told that you snore loudly at night or if you frequently notice symptoms such as daytime fatigue, general irritability, choking or gasping in your sleep, memory loss, or waking up in the middle of the night. These symptoms can all have various causes, so you’ll need to be properly diagnosed before sleep apnea treatment can begin.
You should never take chances when it comes to a disorder that prevents you or your loved ones from getting an all-important night’s rest. If anyone in your family has suffered from sleep apnea before, make sure that you’re aware of the various risk factors and warning signs that could be telling you to schedule an appointment with your sleep dentist right away!
About the Author
Dr. Kent Smith has been treating patients with sleep breathing disorders for over 25 years at Sleep Dallas in Irving. During this time, he has helped over 10,000 people enjoy rejuvenating, interruption-free rest again with oral appliances. He is double board-certified in dental sleep medicine and has facilitated several seminars and lectures every year on the subject. If you’re worried that you may have inherited the risk for sleep apnea, get in touch with Dr. Smith through his website or call (844) 409-4657.