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Can Genetics Play a Role in Your Risk for Sleep Apnea?

September 8, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — ecoontz @ 8:46 am
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The genes you inherited from your parents influence everything from your height and eye color to your intelligence and personality. However, many people don’t realize that genetics can also play a role in whether you get quality rest. There are many factors that can increase your risk of sleep apnea. One particular factor you’ll want to keep in mind, however, is genetics. Do your parents have sleep apnea? Keep reading to discover why you may want to talk to your dentist about sleep apnea treatment in Albuquerque.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common condition that affects over 20 million people, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. People impacted by sleep apnea experience repeated breathing interruptions of up to 10 seconds while they sleep. These interruptions can occur dozens or even hundreds of times a night. The most common form of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax and block the airway.

How Do Genetics Contribute to Sleep Apnea?

Research has shown that between 25% to 40% of people who have sleep apnea also have family members affected by the condition. Here are several ways your genetics could increase your risk of sleep apnea.


Genes can influence body weight, which is one of the biggest contributing factors for sleep apnea. Excess weight creates fat deposits in a person’s neck that can block the upper airway while they sleep. Fortunately, losing just 10% of body weight through diet and exercise can have a big effect on sleep apnea symptoms.

Facial Anatomy

The shape and size of your nose and the placement of your jaw can affect the width of your airway. If your airway is smaller, it can become blocked more easily.  

Neural Connections

A study published in Current Genomics suggests that genetics may affect the muscles and neural signals involved in breathing. More research is needed to fully understand this potential link. However, such a connection could impact your likelihood of developing sleep apnea.

How Your Dentist Can Help

If you know that obstructive sleep apnea runs in the family, pay attention to potential warning signs like snoring, fatigue, and frequent headaches. If you experience any of these symptoms or otherwise suspect you have sleep apnea, don’t wait to contact a dental professional.

A qualified sleep dentist may recommend oral appliance therapy. An oral appliance is a custom mouthpiece worn while you sleep. The small device makes slight changes to your jaw position to prevent breathing interruptions. If worn consistently at night, an oral appliance can dramatically improve your quality of sleep.

Your genes don’t have to be your destiny! Even if sleep apnea runs in your family, you can partner with a dentist to achieve quality rest.

About the Author

Dr. Eric Coontz has an amazing 45+ years of experiencing helping patients achieve sound sleep. An active member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, he has taken countless hours of advanced training for dental sleep medicine, including at the prestigious Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. To learn more about genetics and sleep apnea treatment in Albuquerque, visit Dr. Coontz’s website or call 505-433-2107.

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