Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when an obstruction (such as excess throat tissue) temporarily blocks your airway while you sleep. This can cause intense snoring, gasping for air, and choking. 

Not only does this keep you from a restful night of sleep, but untreated sleep apnea also increases your risk of high blood pressure and other serious complications.

Sleep apnea affects people of all ages, but certain risk factors increase the likelihood that you develop sleep apnea. 

Accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Dr. Roberto Palmieri wants you to know the risk factors (and the warning signs) of sleep apnea so you can seek treatment as early as possible.

7 risk factors for sleep apnea

Sleep apnea affects adults as well as children, but the following risk factors do increase your risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.

1. Being overweight or obese 

According to research, as many as 45% of overweight individuals have obstructive sleep apnea. When you’re overweight, you develop fatty deposits, including around your upper airway. This can affect your breathing at night, especially when you’re lying flat on your back.

2. Smoking

Smoking increases your risk of developing sleep apnea threefold. Smoking affects your oral health in other ways too, increasing your risk of gum disease and oral cancer. 

3. Being male

Men are at higher risk of developing sleep apnea. The male-to-female ratio for sleep apnea cases is 3:1 (for young men) and 5:1 (for older men). 

It should be noted that many cases of sleep apnea in women are misdiagnosed so these numbers might be higher for women in reality, according to the same research. 

4. Anatomical differences

Obstructive sleep apnea causes disruptions to your breathing when your airway is compromised. Having a small jawbone, a deviated septum, or enlarged soft tissue (tongue, tonsils, etc.) contributes to airway obstructions. 

5. Being older

If you’re 40 or older, you’re at higher risk for sleep apnea, whether you’re female or male.

6. Underlying health conditions

About 60% of individuals with sleep apnea also have acid reflux disease. Acid reflux isn’t the only medical condition linked to sleep apnea. Sinus infections also increase your risk.

7. Family history 

If someone in your family has sleep apnea, you’re more likely to develop it too. If you have a family history (and/or other risk factors), it’s not too late to start making healthy life choices. For example, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking can help improve your odds.

What if you spot the signs of sleep apnea?

It’s important to remember that even if some of these risk factors apply to you, you may not develop sleep apnea. However, if you are at risk, it’s important to know the signs of sleep apnea so you can take the appropriate action. 

Common symptoms include:

If you suspect sleep apnea is disrupting your sleep, we can confirm your suspicions with the Planmeca® 3D X-ray machine. 

While CPAP machines are a common treatment for sleep apnea, they aren’t the only option. Dr. Palmieri may suggest a mandibular advancement device or, in severe cases, surgical mandibular advancements.

If you’re concerned about your risk factors for sleep apnea, call our Mooresville, North Carolina, office or book your appointment online.

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