What causes sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea can be caused by different reasons. 

Central sleep apnea is due to a communication issue between your brain and the muscles that control your breathing.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a physical restriction of airflow due to an involuntary relaxation of your throat muscles during sleep. There are certain factors that put you at risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea. 


Risk factors for sleep apnea:

Excess Weight: An increase in weight, or excessive weight, can increase your risk of sleep apnea. This is due to bulky tissue that collects around the neck region. This excessive tissue can close the throat, especially while lying down.

Age: Obstructive sleep apnea can develop at any age, but your risk increases as you get older. As you age, fatty tissue can build up in your neck and the tongue, raising your risk of developing sleep apnea.

Smoking: Smoking tobacco or marijuana, along with any constant exposure to smoke including frequent yard waste burning or campfires, can damage the upper airway muscle function leading to obstructive sleep apnea. In addition, burning any biological factor puts tar in your lungs, decreasing your lung capacity.

Narrowed Airway: People can have a narrowed airway due to multiple causes including their tonsils or adenoids, or a deviated septum or turbinate reduction due to inflamed tissue from allergies. In addition, a person may temporarily experience obstructive sleep apnea during a period of nasal congestion from allergies or sickness. 

Having Other Medical Conditions: A wide range of other medical conditions can increase your risk of obstructive sleep apnea. This may be due to certain medications, changes to your sleeping position, and other body changes due to the health condition.

Sex: Studies indicate that men are at risk two to three times higher than women in developing obstructive sleep apnea. This is primarily due to structural differences in their throat, and circumference differences in neck size comparison. 

Alcohol Use: Alcohol consumption can help more than your nerves relax, it causes your muscles to relax as well. Increased relaxation in the muscles in your throat can cause a narrowing in the throat and difficulty for air to pass. 


A person with obstructive sleep apnea will have brief moments multiple times a night of not getting the oxygen their body needs. When the lack of oxygen occurs, the brain releases a stress hormone causing the person to wake just enough to take a large breath. For some, this release of stress hormones and waking the person, can occur hundreds of times in the night.

Sleep apnea can be dangerous for your health. There are both immediate and long term problems that can arise. Immediate problems are associated with decreased REM sleep. People may wake feeling unrested, foggy in their thinking, and irritable. Some patients even report waking with a migraine. Long term problems from the constant release of stress hormones and inadequate sleep can cause high blood pressure, increasing your risk of stroke and heart disease.

Get in touch with All Smiles Sleep Solutions

Office Location

17200 Camelot Court
Unit 101
Land O’Lakes, FL 34638-7279

Satellite Location

1180 Ponce DeLeon
Suite 401
Clearwater, FL 34756