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Can Sleep Apnea Be Hereditary?

September 2, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — tntadmin @ 5:51 pm
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Every night, millions of people miss out on countless hours of sleep because of sleep apnea; and sadly, many more cases go completely undiagnosed! But your sleep isn’t all that’s at stake if you’re dealing with this condition, and you’re at an increased risk for numerous other health issues if things are left to progress. But did you know that among the various factors that contribute to sleep apnea, some of them are linked with your genes? Here’s more from your sleep dentist about this connection along with some ways that you can lower your risk.

What Genetic Factors Contribute to Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a chronic condition that’s characterized by repeated pauses in a patient’s breathing throughout the night. This is caused by blockage in the airway, often due to the soft tissues of the mouth and throat collapsing, which can stem from a variety of reasons that are related to mostly health and lifestyle choices. However, some of these reasons can also be hereditary! Here are a few different ways that your genes can impact your risk of developing sleep apnea:

  • Body fat – Your genes can greatly impact your body weight and also determine where fat is located on your body, both of which can influence your likelihood of developing sleep apnea. In fact, people who are obese are roughly ten times more likely to suffer from OSA!
  • Facial anatomy – Your genes also affect the shape of your face, including skull width, nose length and width, and facial depth. All of these parts of your face impact how wide your airway is, which in turn influences how easily it can become blocked.
  • Circadian rhythm – Your innate sleep schedule is heavily influenced by your genes, as is how well you sleep.
  • Breathing control – Research on the link between genes and breathing control is still somewhat lacking, but experts suspect that genetics might influence the muscles and neural signals that are involved in breathing.

How Can I Lower My Risk of Sleep Apnea?

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of developing sleep apnea, despite what your genes might have to say about it:

  • Try to maintain a healthy body weight by eating a vitamin- and nutrient-rich diet, avoiding excess sugar and unhealthy foods, and getting plenty of exercise.
  • Make other lifestyle choices that promote healthy breathing during sleep, such as not drinking alcohol in excess before bedtime or smoking and using tobacco products.
  • Be mindful of other potential sources of sleep disruption such as light entering the room, warmer temperatures, pet dandruff, seasonal allergies, and more.
  • If you suffer from dental misalignment, oral appliance therapy can assist with correcting your jaw’s position, resulting in better airflow. You might also consider sleeping on your back rather than your side to promote easier breathing.

If you’re concerned about how sleep apnea might be impacting your ability to rest, don’t hesitate to speak with your dentist about possible solutions for managing your symptoms. Even if your condition is linked to genetic factors, it can still be managed!

About the Author

Dr. Bernard L. Greenbaum has proudly served patients and families in the Bethesda, MD area for over 25 years. Dr. Greenbaum received his DDS from the Georgetown University School of Dentistry and is a Fellow of the prestigious Academy of General Dentistry. If you have any questions about sleep apnea or would like to arrange a visit, you can contact Dr. Greenbaum through his practice’s website or over the phone for assistance: (301) 530-0552.

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