Is Sleep Apnea Genetic?

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While obstructive sleep apnea is partially inherited, the question of whether genetics play a part in central sleep apnea (CSA) remains a mystery, since no conclusive evidence or study has been able to confirm it.

Despite this, there are three distinct types of sleep apnea, each with its own distinct characteristics.

CSA occurs when the brain fails to send the necessary signals to control breathing while you sleep, while obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) happens when the muscles in your throat relax and narrow your airways, causing breathing to stop briefly.

Complex sleep apnea, a combination of both CSA and OSA, can also occur.

To determine if you may have sleep apnea, pay close attention to your sleep patterns and look out for symptoms like snoring.

There are many sleep monitoring devices available to help you track your sleep cycle and breathing patterns. If you notice any repeated anomalies, don't hesitate to consult a sleep specialist for a proper diagnosis and recommendations.

Early detection is key, and even infants can show signs of sleep apnea.

Role of Genetics

Studies have shown that having someone in the immediate family with OSA increases your risk of developing it by 40%. Regardless of whether you have symptoms or not, it is vital to learn more about sleep apnea if it runs in your family.

Body Type and Body Shape

Genes play a significant role in the type of body and shape we have. Our metabolism and where we store fat in our bodies are determined by our genes. Obese people are more prone to obstructive sleep apnea

Bone Structure of Face

Our face structure and the shape of the skull are determined by our ethnicity and genes. The air passage may get reduced depending on the bone structure of the nose, throat, and skull. It can also affect how easily it can be blocked when fat is deposited around the neck.

What causes Sleep Apnea?

Depending on your age and genetics, sleep apnea and its type can be caused by a number of different factors.

Risk Factors for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Genetic factors

A person's craniofacial structure, which encloses the brain and face, is determined by their genes. Depending on the structure, the throat's soft tissues may have less space. As a result, you may have breathing difficulties at night.


Despite the fact that obesity alone does not cause OSA, it plays a significant role when other factors are also present. Further, fatty deposits around the neck and upper respiratory tract can obstruct the airway, which can worsen the condition.

Body Type

Your body type and shape can contribute to the condition. The presence of a broader abdomen, waist and thick neck region could indicate an increased risk of the disease.


The statistics have shown that men are more prone to OSA as compared to females. However, once the females enter the menopause phase, the chance of OSA rises significantly. OSA cases are far higher in men but there have been studies that show that sleep apnea is underdiagnosed in women.


Studies have shown that people below the age of 30 are less likely to have a sleep disorder. However, the risk of OSA increases with age. OSA is more prevalent among men than women in old age, regardless of their lifestyle, age, or family history,


Ethnic origins and descent also play a role. People with Asian ancestry, African Americans, Blacks, Hispanics, Chinese, or Americans of Indian origin are more prone to OSA.

Risk Factors for Central Sleep Apnea

Risk factors for central sleep apnea differ greatly from those for OSA.


Age is an important factor in any type of sleep apnea. The risk of central sleep apnea increases with age, just like that of OSA.


It is more common in males as compared to females.

Heart Ailment

Research has shown that almost 50% of people with atrial fibrillation or AFib are known to have sleep apnea. The numbers for both of them have been reported to be higher in the US. It causes disorders such as central sleep apnea and Cheyne-Stokes respiration in patients with cognitive heart failure, where their heart muscles weaken and fail to pump blood properly.

High Altitude

Staying at a high altitude for a long time can severely impair your breathing. Sleeping at a high altitude can cause sleep apnea symptoms even if you do not have a history of the condition. Once you reach your normal altitude, these symptoms disappear automatically. If it does not, consult a sleep specialist.

Opioid Usage

CSA is known to develop in people who are on opioid medication for a long time.

Brain-related condition

It is possible for patients with brain-related conditions like brain tumors, strokes, etc, to be unable to process breathing signals properly. It can lead to CSA.

CPAP Usage

CPAP users with OSA may also develop CSA, which can lead to a condition called complex sleep apnea or treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.


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