Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea. However, certain factors put you at increased risk, including:

  • Being overweight. Around half of people with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight. Fat deposits around the upper airway may obstruct breathing. Also, people with obstructive sleep apnea tend to have a larger waist.

    However, not everyone with obstructive sleep apnea is overweight and vice versa. Thin people can develop the disorder, too.

  • Having a large neck. The size of your neck may indicate whether you have an increased risk.

    A thick neck may narrow the airway and may be an indication of excess weight. A neck circumference greater than 17 inches for men and 16 inches for women is associated with an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Having high blood pressure (hypertension). Obstructive sleep apnea is relatively common in people with hypertension.
  • Having a narrowed airway. You may inherit a naturally narrow throat. Or your tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged, which can block your airway.
  • Having chronic nasal congestion. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs twice as often in those who have consistent nasal congestion at night, regardless of the cause. This may be due to narrowed airways.
  • Having diabetes. Obstructive sleep apnea may be more common in people with diabetes.
  • Being male. In general, men are twice as likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Being black. Among people under age 35, obstructive sleep apnea is more common in blacks.
  • Being a certain age. Obstructive sleep apnea usually occurs in adults who are ages 18 to 60, but it can occur at any age.
  • Having a family history of sleep apnea. If you have family members with obstructive sleep apnea, you may be at increased risk.
  • Smoking. People who smoke are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Using alcohol. Alcohol may worsen obstructive sleep apnea.
June 15, 2013