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Is Sleep Apnea Genetic?

Fact Checked
Up to date
Update: May 25, 2023
4 min read

Written by

Rahul Upadhyay
Content Writer

Medical reviewed by

Dr Dixit Thakur
Pulmonary and Sleep Specialist
Man Sleeping On Bed And Genetic Factors Of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a health disorder where you stop and start breathing while asleep. This ailment can lead to severe problems such as heart issues and high blood pressure if not treated in time. Some of the most common sleep apnea symptoms include loud snoring and daytime sleepiness. Due to the dangers associated with this disorder, people want to know is sleep apnea genetic. So, Sleep Guides India is here with all the information you need. Keep reading! 

Types Of Sleep Apnea

There are two types of sleep apnea:

  • In central sleep apnea, your brain is unable to send the right signals to the muscles that are responsible for breathing. 
  • In obstructive sleep apnea, the soft tissues at the back of the throat relax too much when you fall asleep. It causes the throat to close fully or partially.

Both types of sleep apnea can occur due to lifestyle choices and health problems. However, genetics can play a vital role too. 

Is Sleep Apnea Genetic?

Central sleep apnea (CSA) is associated with health disorders, which can be a genetic factor. But, is central sleep apnea genetic? Very little evidence suggests that central sleep apnea is hereditary. Factors that put you at risk of CSA include;

  • Being male
  • Age 
  • Heart problems or if you have had a stroke 
  • Lifestyle factors, such as drug abuse 

Is obstructive sleep apnea genetic?

In obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the research suggests that 40% of the factors are related to genes. And the remaining 60% can be due to lifestyle and environmental factors. However, if you have a family history of obstructive sleep apnea and see several relatives suffering from the same condition, you are at risk of developing it. Obesity is a significant risk factor for OSA, and there is a genetic link to it.

Other risk factors include;

  • Lifestyle choices
  • Menopause
  • Nasal congestion
  • People with a thicker neck 
  • Having a small lower jaw 
  • Having large tonsils
  • Lifestyle choices, such as alcohol or smoking

There is still research needed in the area, and scientists haven’t been able to identify the exact gene responsible for this condition.

Is Infant Sleep Apnea Hereditary?

Just like adults, children too can have obstructive sleep apnea. Factors that put a child at risk of OSA include;

  • Large tonsils 
  • Obesity 
  • Face or skull abnormalities 
  • Congenital disorders, such as down syndrome 

Mostly, the significant risk factor in child obstructive sleep apnea is obesity. However, CSA is extremely rare in children. And the current research tells us that the main reasons for CSA are neurological disorders, which include down syndrome, genetic resources, and more. 

Infants under the age of one, especially those born prematurely, can experience sleep apnea. It occurs because the sleep-wake cycle and physical airway structure are still developing in young ones. 

Only in some cases sleep apnea in infants is inherited. 

Understanding the Relationship Between Genetics and Sleep Apnea

As mentioned earlier, sleep apnea can be hereditary but also caused by other risk factors. However, if any of your relatives or parents suffer from the same, the likelihood of you developing it increases. 

Another genetic link can be seen in the factors that cause sleep apnea. For instance, enlarged tonsils or adenoids can occur if you have a family history of the same. And these conditions put you at risk of sleep apnea.

Treating Sleep Apnea When You Have a Family History

Some of the most common treatments for sleep apnea when you have a family history include;

Dental devices

Your doctor may suggest dental devices if jaw misalignment is the reason for sleep apnea. These dental devices can help push the jaw forward to open the upper airway. Usually, this is suggested when you cannot tolerate the CPAP device. 

CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure

CPAP is a machine you wear when you sleep. It offers mild pressure, enough to keep your upper air passage open. CPAP can reduce snoring and curb apnea.  


If all other options fail, your doctor may also recommend surgery. Here, the space where breathing passages are present is enlarged.

When to See A Doctor?

You must visit a doctor if you;

  • Experience daytime sleepiness
  • Have chronic loud snoring
  • Have trouble staying asleep
  • Insomnia 
  • You have unexplained symptoms, such as a sore throat or morning headaches
  • Waking up gasping for breath
  • If your partner noticed that your breathing starts and stops 


Is sleep apnea hereditary? Sleep apnea is not entirely genetic. Lifestyle, environmental, and health conditions play a role here. If you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness or problems with sleep, you must speak with your doctor.


Does sleep apnea run in families?

Yes, sleep apnea can run in the family. If both of your parents have sleep apnea, you will likely suffer from the same. But is snoring hereditary? Some studies show that snoring is linked to genetics.

What is the root cause of sleep apnea?

One of the leading causes of sleep apnea is usually excess weight or obesity. However, other conditions, such as environmental and lifestyle factors like consuming alcohol, sedatives, smoking, family history, being older, etc., may also contribute. 

Who usually suffers from sleep apnea?

Men are two to three times more likely to suffer from sleep apnea when compared to women. However, overweight women and those going through menopause are at increased risk.

What herbs are good for sleep apnea?

While Passionflower, Chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, and valerian root have been associated with promoting relaxation and potentially reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea, there is currently no scientific evidence to substantiate these claims. Always consult a healthcare professional before incorporating herbs or supplements into your routine, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition or are taking medications for sleep related issues.


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Written by

Rahul Upadhyay
Content Writer
10 years of experience as a content writer Previously worked as a copywriter for a health journal Ability to write in a variety of formats, including articles, white papers, and clinical trial summaries

Medical reviewed by

Dr Dixit Thakur
Pulmonary and Sleep Specialist
Pulmonary Critical Care & Sleep Specialist, vast experience of 10+ years in diagnosing and treating various sleep disorders.

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