Sleep apnea can affect people of all ages and genders; even children. Having said that, there is a certain demographic that is at a greater risk of developing sleep apnea. A fundamental part of diagnosing this condition is understanding the different risk factors for it and on this page, we’ll be looking at what they are for both Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA).


Risk Factors for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA):

The following are considered risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea:

  • Being male
  • Overweight: People who are an unhealthy weight or even obese tend to have more fatty tissue in the throat and neck, which can put a strain on the respiratory system, especially at night when the throat muscles relax.
  • 50+ Years old: As one ages, the muscles in the body tend to lose their tone and definition. Weaker throat muscles can therefore collapse more easily during sleep.
  • Genetics: You could be genetic predisposed to having a narrower throat, an enlarged tongue or weight issues, all of which are risk factors for sleep apnea.
  • Tobacco-use: Irritates the soft tissues in the esophagus, lungs and throat, causing fluid retention and inflammation, which can lead to airway blockages and restrictions.
  • Alcohol: Relaxes the body’s muscles, including the throat muscles, and can lead to snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Having a thick neck: Collar measurements in excess of 15.75 inches or 40 centimeters.
  • Being Black, Hispanic, or a Pacific Islander: People of these demographics tend to have more powerful and thicker upper bodies and necks. The extra weight around the throat can cause nocturnal breathing problems.
  • High blood pressure

Other risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Enlarged adenoids or tonsils are risk factors for sleep apnea, especially in children and adults who never had their tonsils removed.
  • A deviated septum
  • A receding chin
  • Bite malocclusion (badly aligned teeth or jaw)
  • Allergies that cause nasal blockage and congestion
  • Throat muscles that relax more than normal.

Risk Factors for Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

The following are considered risk factors for central sleep apnea:

  • Being male
  • 65+ Years old
  • High blood pressure
  • Having a heart disorder, like congestive heart failure or atrial fibrillation.
  • Having a personal medical history of brain tumor or stroke.
  • Sleeping at a higher altitude than you’re used to. If this is the case, the symptoms of sleep apnea usually disappear once you’ve returned to your usual altitude.
  • Opioid medications and painkillers.
  • People undergoing CPAP treatment: It’s not unheard of for patients being treated with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices to develop CSA.

Call Your Dentist Or Doctor!

If one or more of the above-mentioned risk factors applies to you or a family member and you have been experiencing the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea (fatigue, moodiness, low energy, dry throat, snoring, etc.) you should consult with your doctor or dentist immediately.

If you’re a medical healthcare professional (doctor or dentist), it’s important that you speak to your patients about their sleep patterns and any sleep apnea symptoms they may complain of as a routine part of your examination. This especially applies to patients over the age of 50.

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