Have you noticed that one or more of your relatives struggle with sleep problems? If they have sleep apnea, you might wonder if the condition is hereditary. Are you likely to develop it as well? Let’s talk about how your genetics could influence your risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). We’ll also talk about a few things you can do to ensure you get high-quality rest.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Genetic Factors
OSA is a condition that occurs when a person stops breathing multiple times throughout the night. These pauses in breathing, called apneas, are the result of tissues blocking the upper airway. Your risk for OSA can be influenced by several factors, some of which are genetic:
- Body weight and composition. Some individuals are genetically predisposed to carry excess weight, and obesity is a well-known risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea. Genes also have a bearing on where on the body fat tends to accumulate; people with a higher amount of fatty tissue around the neck tend to have a larger neck circumference, which is another possible contributing factor to OSA.
- Airway and facial anatomy. Your DNA can have a large impact on the shape of your facial structures, including those that affect airway function. For example, your genes may cause you to have a deviated septum, narrow jaw, crooked teeth, or other features that can restrict the free flow of air while you are asleep.
- Sleep schedule. Research suggests that your natural sleep schedule can be influenced by your genes. This can affect when you fall asleep and how well you sleep. Such factors may have a slight effect on your risk for sleep apnea.
Lowering Your Risk
While you cannot change your genetic makeup, you can take steps to keep your risk of developing OSA as low as possible. Here are a few practical suggestions:
- Try to manage your weight. For some individuals, losing as little as 5 – 10% of their body weight can reduce OSA symptoms or resolve the issue altogether.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. This includes things like having a regular sleep schedule, resting on a comfortable mattress, and making sure your bedroom is dark and quiet.
- Make lifestyle adjustments. You may need to cut back on alcohol (particularly in the hours before bedtime). Sleeping on your side rather than on your back can also be helpful.
- Visit an orthodontist. In some cases, addressing dental misalignment can help to prevent or manage OSA.
Seek OSA Treatment
If you end up developing OSA, there is no need to despair. This disorder is usually easy to manage. For example, you may be a candidate for a custom appliance from a sleep dentist. The appliance can slightly reposition your jaw at night, allowing for the easier flow of air.
Your genes may cause you to develop obstructive sleep apnea, but that doesn’t mean you are powerless when it comes to getting the rest you need. A few practical steps can help you to enjoy rejuvenating shuteye night after night.
Meet the Sleep Dentist
Dr. Mitch Conditt began his career as a general dentist, but in recent years, he has shifted his focus to helping patients cope with obstructive sleep apnea and TMD. If you are concerned about the quality of your sleep, he and our team can help you to pursue diagnosis and treatment. To learn more about us and our services, contact us at 817-527-8500.