FAST FACTS: Is it possible for sleep apnea to be genetic?

 

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) certainly can be said to run in families.

Although there is no such thing as a "sleep apnea gene," there are three ways you can look at family traits as evidence you are likely to develop it:

  1. Genetic predisposition
  2. Family resemblance
  3. Lifestyle and environment

 

Genetics

Inherited characteristics from relatives with sleep apnea may influence whether you develop this disorder. These include:

Family resemblance

OSA is primarily a mechanical dysfunction of the upper airway during sleep. Your family’s shared physiological traits in the cranium, face, and jaw can influence the likelihood you develop OSA, such as:  

Lifestyle and environment

We learn our behaviors (both healthy and not healthy) through our families first. These external influences can lead to a predisposition for OSA that may be just as powerful as genetics:

If you are concerned that sleep apnea runs in your family and wish to avoid it, you can express these worries to your primary care physician, who can refer you to a sleep specialist if necessary. Even if you are more predisposed to developing OSA by factors that are out of your control, you are still better off knowing how to prevent it from developing or worsening by being proactive about lifestyle choices.

 

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