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Causes of Sleep Apnoea

When you’re asleep, it’s normal for your throat muscles to relax. In most people, this doesn’t cause any issues. However, for those with sleep apnoea, the airways can become too narrow and this is what causes many of the symptoms.

Our doctors know what causes sleep apnoea and how to spot any factors that might increase your risk. They can provide a diagnosis and ensure you get the treatment you need.

Things that increase your risk of sleep apnoea

Some of the possible triggers can be reversed with lifestyle changes.

  • Being overweight - This may cause excess body fat or tissue in your neck, which increases the chance of your airways becoming blocked.
  • Having a large neck - Particularly if your neck size is larger than 17 inches.
  • Taking sleeping pills - These can cause the muscles in your neck to relax more than they normally would.
  • Drinking alcohol - Especially if you regularly exceeded the recommended limit of 14 units per week, or drink close to bedtime.
  • Smoking - In addition to all the other health risks associated with smoking, it can make you more likely to snore.
  • Being a man - It’s thought that the different fat distribution in the male body can increase the likelihood of sleep apnoea.
  • Being over 40 - While sleep apnoea can happen at any age, it’s more common in people over 40.
  • Having an unusual neck structure - You might have been born with narrow airways, large tonsils, adenoids, a large tongue or a small jaw, all of which can increase the chance of airways becoming blocked in the night.
  • Going through the menopause - The change in your hormones can cause the neck muscles to relax more than normal during sleep.
  • Nasal congestion - Chronic nasal congestion could be caused by conditions such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps, both of which could restrict airflow.
  • Sleeping on your back - While not a cause, sleeping on your back can make snoring more likely, as it increases the chance of your neck tissue falling into a position that blocks your airways.
  • A family history of sleep apnoea

With so many potential triggers and causes of sleep apnoea, it’s likely that our doctors will ask you a lot of questions during your consultation. This will help them rule out possible causes and home in one the factors that might be triggering your symptoms, or making them worse.

This will help them provide you with the most effective treatment. It may be that they can advise you to make lifestyle changes that will lower your risk of sleep apnoea, or they can refer you to a specialist for further analysis and treatment if needed.