Millions of people worldwide experience sleep apnea, yet many don’t know they have the illness since it goes unnoticed. Breathing stops or shallow breathing during sleep characterize this disorder, which disrupts sleep and is associated with daily weariness, concentration, and other health issues.
Studies have shown that hereditary and environmental variables may play a role in sleep apnea, while the specific cause is still unknown.
Studies investigating sleep apnea’s genetic causes have gained momentum in recent years. Sleep apnea risk is known to increase by variables related to one’s lifestyle, such as being overweight, smoking, or drinking alcohol. But mounting evidence suggests some genetic abnormalities may also predispose individuals to the disorder.
Research into the causes of sleep apnea at the genetic level could lead to more effective therapies for those who suffer from it.
Here we’ll look at how genetics can contribute to sleep apnea. Here, we’ll discuss the most recent findings regarding the relationship between sleep apnea and genetic and environmental factors.
Sleep apnea is a severe health problem, so we’ll also talk about how genetic testing can help pinpoint who’s at a higher risk of acquiring the disorder and what treatments are now available. Here, we discuss the intricate interaction between hereditary and lifestyle factors in sleep apnea development.
Is Sleep Apnea Genetic?
Periodic pauses in breathing characterize sleep apnea. Although sleep apnea’s root cause is still a mystery, studies have shown that heredity may play a part in the condition.
Sleep apnea is more likely to occur with the presence of specific genetic variants, according to research. The cause of Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA) may be variations in the TECPR2 gene.
Sleep breathing is regulated by the brainstem, affected by differences in the TECPR2 gene, which is involved in cellular metabolic regulation. PHOX2B, a gene essential for correctly forming the autonomic nervous system, has also been linked to CSA and other sleep disorders.
Despite years of research on the genetics of sleep apnea, the specific genes responsible for the disorder still need to be fully understood. The most recent study, however, reveals a possible link between some genes and OSA or intermittent hypoxia.
Angiopoietin-2 (ANGPT2), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), prostaglandin E2 receptor epsilon 3 (PTGER3), lysophosphatidic acid receptor 1 (LPAR1), G-protein receptor 83 (GPR83), -arrestin 1 (ARRB1), dopamine receptor D1 (DRD1), and serotonin receptor (SERT) are all examples of such genes (HTR2A).
However, these genes may also have a role in sleep apnea. It requires further study to establish this fact. Racial differences in how severe this condition manifests have been noted, possibly due to genetic factors. For instance, craniofacial shape and obesity may play a pivotal role in sleep apnea among specific populations.
Genetics could also help explain the connection between sleep apnea and other conditions, such as high triglyceride levels. While related research is still in the early stages, these findings highlight the potential for genetics to provide more significant insights into the underlying causes of sleep apnea.
Genetics alone is not the predetermining factor for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is also more likely to develop in those with certain environmental risks factors, such as obesity, smoking, and alcohol intake.
All of these things can compound the effects of underlying genetic differences. Hence, while calculating the likelihood of developing sleep apnea, it is crucial to consider hereditary and environmental factors.
What Genetic Factors Cause Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a complicated illness with multiple potential causes, including lifestyle factors and genetics. Sleep apnea can be influenced by both environmental (such as being overweight or a smoker) and internal (such as genes). Researchers have pinpointed multiple genetic risk factors for sleep apnea.
The craniofacial structure is a vital genetic risk factor for sleep apnea. The size and shape of the upper airway are mostly inherited traits, as are those of the face and skull. Sleep apnea may be heritable, and those who inherit a tiny lower jaw, large tonsils, a large neck or skull, or facial anomalies such as a cleft palate may be at a greater risk for the condition.
Sleep apnea could also be related to hormonal abnormalities. Hormonal abnormalities like hypothyroidism are likely reasons for developing sleep apnea, in which the thyroid does not generate enough hormones. The hormones generated by the thyroid gland also control metabolism and breathing.
Sleep apnea risk also increases in males compared to females due to biological differences. It seems likely that genetics has a role in this divergence, albeit the exact nature of that role is still being determined. According to studies, some genes on the maternally inherited X chromosome may play a role in the onset of sleep apnea.
Other risk factors for developing sleep apnea include preexisting medical illnesses and syndromes that are evident at birth or early childhood. Some diseases are inherited. Some people with Down syndrome or cerebral palsy may be predisposed to sleep apnea because of underlying anatomical abnormalities.
Sleep apnea risk also appears to be associated with racial background. African-American, Hispanic, and Native-American ethnicity is linked to a higher incidence of sleep apnea. It could be because of innate susceptibility to sleep apnea in those populations caused by variances in craniofacial structure.
Sleep apnea can occur due to many environmental conditions but genetics also plays a part. Increased risk of sleep apnea is linked to medical disorders, syndromes, hormonal imbalances, and craniofacial architecture.
Developments of better sleep apnea treatments can be possible if researchers have a deeper understanding of the genetic variables that contribute to this condition.
Risk Factors For Sleep Apnea
People of all ages and both sexes are susceptible to developing sleep apnea. It causes periodic awakenings due to a lack of oxygen in the blood. It’s linked to various health issues, including daytime weariness, high blood pressure, and an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease.
Although sleep apnea’s origins remain unknown, many risk factors can raise your chances of acquiring the disorder.
Because more weight can lead to excessive tissue in the back of the neck, those who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of developing sleep apnea. This tissue can grow and restrict the airway during the night, making breathing harder.
Although any age group is at risk for developing sleep apnea, the condition is more prevalent among older adults. The throat muscles weaken with age, making them more likely to collapse and block breathing.
As a general rule, the prevalence of sleep apnea is higher in men than in women. It’s because males, on average, have bigger necks and more body fat concentrated in the abdominal region, which might obstruct breathing when they sleep.
4. Family History
Individuals with a family history of sleep apnea may be more likely to develop the condition, as they may inherit certain genetic traits that increase their risk.
However, there’s no guarantee that a person will develop sleep apnea because it runs in their family. Lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking, and alcohol consumption can also increase the risk of developing sleep apnea, regardless of family history.
Smoking can increase inflammation and fluid retention in the throat, leading to a narrowing of the airway. This narrowing can make it more difficult for air to pass through, which can cause snoring and interrupted breathing during sleep. Additionally, smoking can cause damage to the lung tissue, which can also contribute to sleep apnea.
6. Alcohol and Sedatives
Alcohol and sedatives are substances that can depress the central nervous system, which can lead to relaxation and drowsiness. While these substances may initially make it easier to fall asleep, they can also have negative effects on sleep quality and can contribute to the development or exacerbation of sleep apnea.
7. Nasal Congestion
Nasal congestion, which is the blockage of the nasal passages due to inflammation or excess mucus, can contribute to the development or exacerbation of sleep apnea. This is because the obstruction of the nasal passages can make it more difficult to breathe through the nose, which is the preferred method of breathing during sleep.
When a person has chronic nasal congestion, they may be forced to breathe through their mouth while sleeping, which can cause the muscles in the throat and tongue to relax and contribute to the narrowing or blockage of the airway. This can lead to snoring, interrupted breathing, and other sleep apnea symptoms.
8. Specific Medical Conditions
Sleep apnea is more common in those with specific health problems, like diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease. It’s because inflammation and fluid buildup in the throat brought on by these illnesses can make it hard to breathe when sleeping.
How to Prevent Sleep Apnea?
Modifying your way of living in fundamental ways might lessen your chances of getting sleep apnea and alleviate its symptoms. Here we’ll look at some of the best methods for avoiding obstructive sleep apnea in the future.
These preventative measures can help you receive the restful sleep you need to keep you healthy and energized, whether you are at high risk for sleep apnea or want to maintain good sleep health.
1. Always Strive to Stay at a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the best preventative measures against sleep apnea. Because extra weight can cause the airways in the throat to become narrowed, being obese is a significant risk factor for sleep apnea.
Studies show that even a little weight loss can impact the intensity of sleep apnea and the quality of sleep you experience.
2. Regular Exercise
Keeping to a healthy weight and exercising regularly can prevent sleep apnea. When your respiratory system is robust, and your lung function is good, you’re less likely to have trouble breathing while you sleep.
Keep up with at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling) on most days of the week.
3. Stay Away From Sleeping Pills and Alcohol
Alcohol and sedatives might cause the muscles in your throat to relax, increasing your risk of snoring and sleep apnea. Not drinking alcohol or using sedatives before night can help avoid these issues. Consume alcohol sparingly and well away from bedtime if you must.
4. Be a Side Sleeper
When you lie on your back, your tongue and soft palate compress towards the back of your throat, which can cause snoring and sleep apnea. You can sleep in this position all night with the help of pillows and other aids. Changing to a side sleep position can help you prevent these issues.
5. Stop Smoking
As a result of smoking-induced airway inflammation and edema, breathing may become more labored during sleeping. You can decrease the risk of developing sleep apnea and improve the quality of sleep apnea if you give up smoking.
6. Do Something About Your Stuffy Nose
Snoring and sleep apnea are both symptoms of nasal congestion, which makes it more difficult to breathe through the nose at night. Treating nasal congestion and allergy symptoms can help prevent these complications. Effective options include nasal sprays and allergy medicines available without a prescription.
7. Use Humidifiers
It can be more difficult to breathe when sleeping if the air is too dry, irritating the airways. Keeping the air moist in your bedroom with a humidifier can help avoid these problems. Humidifiers can harbor harmful bacteria and mold, so keeping them clean is crucial.
8. Plan Your Checkups Regularly
The Diagnosis and the subsequent treatment of Sleep apnea are possible only after any underlying health issues are found. Hypertension and diabetes increase the risk of Sleep apnea. Therefore, manage these conditions appropriately.
Genes and lifestyle choices both have a role in developing sleep apnea. While genetic predisposition to sleep apnea exists, it is possible to lessen one’s chances of developing the illness and even prevent it altogether.
You can lower your risk of getting sleep apnea by keeping a healthy weight, giving up tobacco and alcohol, and enhancing your sleeping routine. Early detection and treatment are the keys to effectively managing sleep apnea and avoiding its problems.
Sleep apnea can cause serious health problems and should be discussed with a doctor if you or a loved one are experiencing any symptoms.