Causes of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common yet significant sleeping disorder that has various causes and potential risk factors that increase one’s likelihood of having the disorder. In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association mentions that 1 in 5 adults have mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), while 1 in 15 adults have moderate to severe OSA. While there are particular causes and risk factors that increase one’s susceptibility to having sleep apnea, no one is exempt.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction, or a blockage, in airflow that prevents the lungs and thus the body from receiving the proper amount of oxygen necessary to function. What, exactly, is blocking the airway? As we sleep our muscles relax and lose their tonality. The tongue, which is a muscular organ, may relax and the downward pull of gravity, combined with negative pressure caused by inhalation, can cause the tongue to either partially or completely close off the airway. Additionally, the soft tissue in the mouth and throat may also relax and contribute to airway collapse.

These Causes May Increase Your Risk

While sleep apnea appears in people of all ages and genders, there are numerous factors that increase one’s risk, including:

  • Male gender
  • Obesity (BMI>30)
  • Large neck circumference (>16.5” for men, >15” for women)
  • Large tongue
  • Family history of OSA
  • Middle aged and older
  • Nasal congestion
  • Smoking
  • Diagnosis of hypertension
  • Excessive use of alcohol or sedatives

  • Anatomical features (such as structure of the upper airway or jaw, large tonsils or adenoids, recessed chin or overbite (retrognathia), long lower face height, oral pharyngeal crowding, deviated septum, inferiorly located hyoid bone)

In contrast, central sleep apnea, defined by the inability of the brain to properly transmit signals to the organs that help you breathe so that there is no effort made to breathe, is cause by unsuccessful communication by the brain for a period of time. While many of the risk factors above also pertain to central sleep apnea, heart disorders such as congestive heart failure, neuromuscular disease, a previous stroke, and the use of narcotic pain medications can also cause central sleep apnea.

Millions of Americans suffer from sleep apnea, most of them unaware of the their condition and the cause. Fortunately, you are aware and we have the solutions to help. Please do not hesitate to contact us now to set up your free consultation.

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