What are the big risk factors for sleep apnea?

The big risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include:
  • being overweight or obese
  • having a large neck size (men with greater than a 17-inch neck circumference and women with greater than a 15-inch neck circumference)
  • aging
  • family history of sleep apnea
  • smoking
  • small airways
  • nasal congestion
  • alcohol or sedative use
Children at increased risk for sleep apnea tend to have issues with enlarged tonsils or adenoids that block air movement through the throat when they sleep. 
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
If you don't have a bedmate who can personally witness your breathing breaks during the night, you can still gauge your risk of sleep apnea. These are all big risk factors:
  • Being overweight
  • Being excessively sleepy during the day. For example, if you can fall asleep anywhere during the day (and you do not work or play all night long)
  • Having a neck that's over 17 inches in circumference. In fact, that neck measurement means you have more than a 50 percent chance of developing sleep apnea (and a 30 percent chance of making it as an NFL offensive lineman).
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.