Sleep Apnea Causes
Sleep apnea can be caused by a person’s physical structure or medical conditions. These include obesity, large tonsils, endocrine disorders, neuromuscular disorders, heart or kidney failure, certain genetic syndromes, and premature birth.
Obesity is a common cause of sleep apnea in adults. People with this condition have increased fat deposits in their necks that can block the upper airway.
Large tonsils may contribute to sleep apnea, because they narrow the upper airway.
The endocrine system produces hormone that can affect sleep-related breathing. The following are examples of endocrine disorders associated with sleep apnea:
People with this condition have low levels of thyroid hormones. This affects the part of the brain that controls breathing, as well as the nerves and muscles used to breathe. People with hypothyroidism can also be diagnosed with obesity, which can cause sleep apnea.
People with this condition have high levels of growth hormone. This condition is associated with changes in the facial bones, swelling of the throat, and an increased size of the tongue. These changes can obstruct the upper airway and lead to sleep apnea.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Sleep apnea is also seen in women with PCOS, an endocrine condition that causes large ovaries and prevents proper ovulation. PCOS is also associated with overweight and obesity, which can cause sleep apnea.
Conditions interfering with brain signals to airway and chest muscles can cause sleep apnea. Some of these conditions are stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Chiari malformations, myotonic dystrophy, post-polio syndrome, dermatomyositis, myasthenia gravis, and Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome.
Heart or kidney failure
Sleep apnea is commonly found in people who have advanced heart or kidney failure. These patients may have fluid build-up in their neck, which can obstruct the upper airway and cause sleep apnea.
Genetic syndromes that affect the structure of the face or skull, particularly syndromes that cause smaller facial bones or cause the tongue to sit farther back in the mouth, may cause sleep apnea. These genetic syndromes include cleft lip and cleft palate, Down syndrome and congenital central hypoventilation syndrome.
Babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy have a higher risk for breathing problems during sleep. In most cases, the risk decreases as the brain matures.