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Is Sleep Apnea Hereditary?

Submitted by New Jersey Snoring Solutions on Fri 03/25/2022 - 09:00
Sleep Apnea West Orange, NJ

Patients at New Jersey Sleep Apnea Solutions who are parents often worry whether they can pass sleep apnea on to their children. This concern is understandable: though modern treatments make sleep apnea manageable for most, parents want their children to be as healthy and rested as possible. In this blog, Dr. Ivan Stein and Dr. Allan Stein discuss whether genes are to blame for sleep apnea so that families can understand the risks.    

Obstructive Sleep Apnea May Be Hereditary

Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type of sleep apnea, stems from the throat muscles relaxing during sleep. While scientists have researched this subject, they have not conclusively linked the condition to specific genes. However, studies have determined that the child of a parent with sleep apnea is 50% more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than a person who does not have a family history.

That figure indicates that genetics can indeed play a part in developing sleep apnea. Still, a person’s likelihood of having sleep apnea is more strongly linked to other factors like obesity, age, sex (men are more at risk) and tobacco and alcohol use. Environmental factors appear to play a larger role than genetic factors. Most of the sleep apnea patients we treat do not have a parent with the disorder.

But That Is Not the Case for Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea is a condition where the patient’s breathing stops repeatedly during a night of sleep. It happens because the brain does not properly communicate with the body to continue the act of breathing. Although this type of sleep apnea is less common, it is just as dangerous.

Genetics are not known to play a role in developing central sleep apnea. The closest approximation is that heart disease (which can be hereditary) is a significant risk factor for central sleep apnea. Therefore, a child who has genetically inherited a heart disorder may also be at risk for sleep apnea.

Family Medical History Is Valuable Information

Sharing your medical history with family members is a responsible act meant to provide loved ones (and their doctors) with a complete picture to better address their health needs. Try to keep an open line of communication with relatives about health ailments so everyone is aware of conditions that carry genetic risks — sleep apnea or otherwise.

Make an Appointment at New Jersey Sleep Apnea Solutions

Dr. Stein and Dr. Stein are respected professionals who specialize in the treatment of sleep apnea. If you or a family member have symptoms for the disorder, please schedule an appointment by calling (855) 949-7667.