20184 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

    A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
    It is possible to develop sleep apnea with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing sleep apnea. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
    Risk factors for sleep apnea include:


    Heavy smokers —people who smoke more than two packs per day—are 40 times more likely to develop sleep apnea than nonsmokers.


    Some studies have shown that people who use alcohol regularly have an increased risk of sleep apnea.

    Sedative Medications

    Using sedative medications can increase your risk of sleep apnea.

    Medical Conditions

    The following conditions may increase your risk of obstructive sleep apnea:
    The following conditions may increase your risk of central sleep apnea:


    Men are thought to be 2 to 4 times more likely to develop sleep apnea than women. However, some researchers have suggested that this difference might actually be because women are underdiagnosed with the condition.

    Genetic Factors

    The tendency to develop sleep apnea appears to run in certain families.

    Ethnic Background

    Sleep apnea is more common among:
    • African Americans
    • People of Mexican origin
    • Pacific Islanders

    Physical Characteristics

    You have an increased risk of developing sleep apnea if you have the following physical characteristics:
    • Thick neck
    • Obstructed nasal passages
    • Large tongue
    • Narrow airway
    • Receding chin
    • Overbite
    • Certain shapes and increased rigidity of the palate and jaw
    You also have an increased risk of developing sleep apnea if you breathe through your mouth while sleeping, or if you snore.


    American Sleep Apnea Association website. Available at: http://www.sleepapnea.org/resources/pubs/evaluated.html . Published May 2005. Accessed September 17, 2008.

    Cecil R, Goldman L, Benett JC. Cecil Textbook of Medicine . 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2000.

    NINDS sleep apnea information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/sleep%5Fapnea/sleep%5Fapnea.htm . Updated June 2008. Accessed September 17, 2008.

    What are the risk factors for sleep apnea? Health Cares website. Available at: http://neurology.health-cares.net/sleep-apnea-risk-factors.php . Updated July 2005. Accessed September 17, 2008.

    What is sleep apnea? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/SleepApnea/SleepApnea%5FWhatIs.html . Updated February 2008. Accessed September 17, 2008.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.