Causes and Risk Factors of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
- Shape of head and neck may create a smaller than normal airway.
- Large tonsils or adenoids or other anatomical differences. (A deviated septum, enlarged tongue, or receding chin can also create difficulties breathing during sleep)
- Being overweight or obese (although almost 50% of people with sleep apnea are not obese)
- Throat muscles and tongue relax more than normal during sleep. (This can be due to alcohol or sedative use before bedtime, but not necessarily)
- Snoring – Snoring can cause the soft palate to lengthen, which in turn can obstruct the airway.
- Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
- Nasal congestion, nasal blockages, and nasal irritants
- Family history of sleep apnea – No specific genetic marker for sleep apnea has been discovered, but obstructive sleep apnea seems to run in families. This may be a result of anatomic abnormalities that run in the family
- Other disorders and syndromes – Hypothyroidism, acromegaly, amyloidosis, vocal cord paralysis, post-polio syndrome, neuromuscular disorders, Marfan’s syndrome, and Down Syndrome
- Other physical conditions, such as immune system abnormalities, severe heartburn or acid reflux and high blood pressure. It isn’t clear whether the conditions are the cause or the result of sleep apnea
What you need to know
- As reported by the International Classification for Sleep Disorders, habitual snoring is found in about 24 percent of adult women and 40 percent of adult men.
- The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine reports that at least 12-18 million adults in the U.S. have obstructive sleep apnea and up to 50 percent of sleep apnea patients do not comply with or tolerate CPAP.
- Compliance with oral appliance therapy has been shown, using patient diaries validated by covert monitoring, to be as high as 75 percent of patients using the appliance all night seven nights a week.
- Oral appliance therapy often can equal CPAP in effectiveness and offer a higher patient compliance than CPAP.