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Risk Factors Associated with Sleep Apnea
  • Obesity – fatty cells infiltrate the throat tissue, possibly narrowing the airways. Some research also indicates that sleep apnea disrupts rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, which in turn increases the risk of obesity.
  • Habitual snoring – many, but not all individuals with OSA experience symptoms of snoring, gasping, and choking during sleep. Over time, the vibrations from habitual snoring may in turn cause the soft palate to lengthen. Snoring may actually be a cause of changes that triggers some cases of sleep apnea, and not a consequence of it.
  • Family history – inherited characteristics in the face and neck can cause breathing abnormalities.
  • Immune abnormalities – High levels of certain immune factors are present in people with sleep apnea, including tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin 6 (IL-6). Elevated levels of TNF-alpha can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and weakness in the heart's pumping action. IL-6 and TNF-alpha may both play a role in obesity as well.

Other medical conditions – Individuals with severe heartburn (Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD) appear to be at higher risk for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is also associated with higher rates of heart failure.
“Department of Otolaryngology, Columbia University”

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