A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop sleep apnea with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing sleep apnea. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
Risk factors for sleep apnea include:
more than 2 packs per day are more likely to develop sleep apnea than nonsmokers.
Some studies have shown that people who use
regularly have an increased risk of sleep apnea.
Using sedative medications can increase your risk of sleep apnea.
Men are thought to be 2 to 4 times more likely to develop sleep apnea than women. However, some researchers have suggested that this difference may be because women are underdiagnosed with the condition.
Sleep apnea appears to run in certain families.
Sleep apnea is more common among: African AmericansPeople of Mexican originPacific Islanders
You have an increased risk of developing sleep apnea if you have the following physical characteristics: Thick neckObstructed nasal passagesLarge tongueNarrow airwayReceding chinOverbiteCertain shapes and increased rigidity of the palate and jaw
You also have an increased risk of developing sleep apnea if you breathe through your mouth while sleeping, or if you snore.
NINDS sleep apnea information page.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/sleep_apnea/sleep_apnea.htm. Updated December 28, 2010. Accessed June 3, 2013.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 23, 2013. Accessed June 3, 2013.
American Sleep Apnea Association website. Available at:
http://www.sleepapnea.org/learn/sleep-apnea.html. Accessed June 3, 2013.
Who is at risk for sleep apnea. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
Updated July 10, 2012. Accessed June 3, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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