Excess weight. Fat deposits around your upper airway may obstruct your breathing. However, not everyone who has sleep apnea is overweight. Thin people develop OSA, too.
Neck circumference. People with thicker necks may have narrower airways. Women – greater than 15 inch diameter and men – greater than 17 inch diameter are at greater risk.
A narrowed airway. You may have inherited a naturally narrow throat. Or, your tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged, which can block your airway. An enlarged or inflamed uvula will also block the 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.
Age. Sleep apnea occurs significantly more often in adults over 60.
Family history. If you have family members with sleep apnea, you may be at an increased risk.
Race. In people under 35 years old, African Americans are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.
Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers. These substances relax the muscles in your throat which can lead to snoring and/or an obstructed airway.
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.