Sleep Apnea: Is My Family at Risk?

By Eugena Brooks

So, we have sleep apnea. We learn to do what we need to do to improve our quality of lives; and life gets better as we improve. Now that we are getting rest and can think clearly, let us consider what we know.

Part of what we learned is that sleep apnea can be caused by sleeping position, age, weight or genetics. Wait…genetics?

That’s right, genetics. Some risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have to do with physical characteristics with which you are born. For example, having a dental overbite, thick neck, or round head means you are more likely to have sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea or you are born with a narrow throat or large tonsils, your family members have an increased risk of apnea. Other risk factors include the shape of your facial bones (having a small or recessed chin), large throat muscles and having a thicker neck. These are traits that can be passed down from your parents or from you to your children.


Following a night of poor sleep, children are more likely to be hyperactive and have difficulty paying attention. These are signs also associated with attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

If your child complains of persistent night terrors don’t be so sure that it’s only an over-active imagination. Apnea may also be associated with delayed growth and cardiovascular problems.
If your child is exhibiting symptoms of sleep apnea, or you or your spouse have been diagnosed with sleep apnea; talk to your pediatrician about your children.

To learn more about disorders and genetics and how traits run through family lines, click here.