Obstructive Sleep Apnea Risk Factors

Excess weight. Fat deposits around your upper airway may obstruct your breathing. However, not everyone who has sleep apnea is overweight. Thin people develop this disorder, too.

Neck circumference. People with a thicker neck may have a narrower airway.

A narrowed airway. You may have inherited a naturally narrow throat. Or, your tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged, which can block your airway. Being male. Men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea. However, women increase their risk if they're overweight, and their risk also appears to rise after menopause.

Being older. Sleep apnea occurs more often in adults over 60.

Family history. If you have family members with sleep apnea, you may be at increased risk.

Race. In people under 35 years old, blacks are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.

Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers. These substances relax the muscles in your throat.

Smoking. Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than are people who've never smoked. Smoking may increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway. This risk likely drops after you quit smoking.

Nasal congestion. If you have difficulty breathing through your nose — whether it's from an anatomical problem or allergies — you're more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea.