Sleep apnea can affect anyone, even children. But certain factors
increase your risk of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea
- Excess weight. People who are obese have four times the risk of sleep
apnea that people who are a normal weight people do. Fat deposits around
your upper airway may obstruct your breathing. But not everyone who has sleep
apnea is overweight.
- Neck circumference. People with thicker necks may have narrower airways.
For men, the risk increases if neck circumference is 17 inches (43 centimeters)
and larger. In women, the risk increases if neck circumference is
15 inches (38 centimeters) or more.
- A narrowed airway. You may have inherited a naturally narrow throat.
Or, tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged and block the airway, particularly
in children with sleep apnea.
- Being male. Men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea. However, women
increase their risk if they're overweight, and their risk also appears to rise
- Being older. Sleep apnea occurs significantly more often in older adults.
- Family history. If you have family members with sleep apnea, you may
be at increased risk.
- Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers. These substances relax the
muscles in your throat.
- Smoking. Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep
apnea than are people who've never smoked. Smoking may increase the amount of
inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway. This risk likely drops
after you quit smoking.
- Nasal congestion. If you have difficulty breathing through your nose
— whether it's from an anatomical problem or allergies — you're
more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea
Aug. 25, 2015
- Being older. Middle-aged and older people have a higher risk of central
- Heart disorders. People with congestive heart failure are more at risk
of central sleep apnea.
- Using narcotic pain medications. Opioid medications, especially long-acting
ones such as methadone, increase the risk of central sleep apnea.
- Stroke. People who've had a stroke are more at risk of central sleep
apnea or treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.
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- Selim BJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 26, 2015.