Sleep Apnea Causes

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects 25 million Americans yearly. Sleep apnea symptoms often include snoring and chronic breathing disruptions which result in lack of sleep and inability to rest. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health issues.

The causes of sleep apnea are different for everyone, and can vary significantly. Risk factors can increase the chances of developing sleep apnea, but they are not guaranteed to end in a diagnosis.


Obstructive sleep apnea: The muscles in the back of your throat support the soft palate, the uvula, the tongue, the tonsils, and the walls of the throat. If these muscles relax, any one of these structures can collapse. This prevents air from coming in and going out of your body. This may lower your blood oxygen levels, causing your body to try and wake up, disturbing your sleep. Sleep apnea can also cause snoring or choking, and this cycle will continue as long as your breathing is being obstructed.

Central sleep apnea: A less common form of sleep apnea. Breathing occurs involuntarily, and it is controlled by the brain. When your brain fails to tell your breathing muscles to inhale or exhale, you stop breathing for a short period of time. You may wake up short of breath, or feel exhausted in the morning.


Family history: If your family has a history of sleep apnea, you are at a greater risk of developing this disorder. There are also physical traits that can be inherited that will raise your risk as well, including:

  • A thicker neck circumference.
  • A narrow airway.

Birth defects: A child born with an overly large tongue, soft throat muscles, or a small jaw may experience sleep apnea.

Smoking: People who smoke are three times as likely to experience sleep apnea. Risk falls after quitting smoking.

Use of alcohol, medications, etc: Depressants can relax your muscles, making you more susceptible to sleep apnea.

Nasal congestion: Any type of congestion, whether from allergies or a sinus infection, can cause sleep apnea.

Weight: The link between obesity and sleep apnea is complicated. There are people of all sizes who have sleep apnea, but obesity can make it more likely to happen.


While being older increases your risk, the causes of sleep apnea are the same in both children and adults. If your child is complaining of fatigue, or if they begin snoring or choking while they’re sleeping, they need to see their primary care doctor for possible referral or treatment.


If you’re exhibiting any signs, symptoms, or risk factors for sleep apnea, it may be time to see a specialist. While snoring can be “normal”, it can also be an indication of a far more serious medical problem. If you’re worried about sleep apnea and its grave effects on your health,contact New Image Dentistry!