Article 2022 Apr 01

Risk factors for sleep apnea

Several lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors increase one's risk of developing sleep apnea.

Excess body weight

Being overweight and obese leads to storing extra fatty tissues around the upper airway, narrowing the airway and obstructing breathing. Obesity-related complications can cause or worsen existing obstructive sleep apnea.


The risk of sleep apnea increases with age but, the effect tapers off after reaching our 60s and 70s.

Narrowed airway

A narrow airway can be due to genetics or caused by inflamed and enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

High blood pressure

People with hypertension often develop sleep disorders over time, including obstructive sleep apnea.

Chronic nasal congestion

The risk of developing sleep apnea doubles for those suffering from constant nasal congestion.


Smoking causes damage to the lungs and blockage in the airway, significantly increasing sleep apnea risk.


Excess body weight is a common symptom of diabetes and can significantly narrow the airway. 


Generally, males are two to three times more at risk of obstructive sleep apnea than females. As for females, the risk significantly increases after reaching menopause.

Family history

Risk increases with family members who have obstructive sleep apnea.


Studies have found a link between asthma and increasing sleep apnea risk. 

Source: Think you have Sleep Apnea? See the Sleep apnea symptoms here. ( 

  1. Mayo Clinic. 2022. Obstructive sleep apnea - Symptoms and causes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 April 2022].