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Are These Risk Factors Causing Your Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is far more serious than snoring like a grizzly bear and keeping your partner up at night. It’s a threat to your health and can evolve into other issues later on. 

But, since sleep apnea occurs when you’re snoozing, you’re likely unaware that you even have a problem. Fortunately, there are some warning signs that show themselves in the light of day. And, there are known risk factors as well, so if any of them relate to you, you should be on the lookout for daytime symptoms of possible sleep apnea. 

At Centerport Family & Implant Dentistry in Portland, Oregon, Benjamin C. Wang, DMD, specializes in helping you identify risk factors of sleep apnea and providing the treatment you need to put this problem to bed. 

Sleep apnea basics

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which your breathing repeatedly stops and starts as you sleep. There are three different types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and complex. 

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your throat muscles relax and prevent you from breathing normally. 

Central sleep apnea stems from a neurological malfunction when your brain fails to send signals to the muscle that controls breathing. 

Complex sleep apnea is a combination of the other two types. 

Loud snoring is a telltale sign of sleep apnea typically reported by another person, but it’s often accompanied by other symptoms like:

Risk factors

This sleep disorder can affect virtually anyone, but there are a few factors that can increase your risk. Here are the most common risk factors and how they contribute to sleep apnea. 


If you’re overweight or obese, the excess weight creates fatty deposits in your neck. The deposits block your already relaxed upper airway, forcing your body to squeeze air through restricted channels. 

Being overweight can also put an inordinate amount of stress on your chest cavity and decrease lung volume. 

What’s worse is that being overweight is both a risk factor and a side effect of sleep apnea. The sleep deprivation diminishes your appetite-suppressing hormone, leptin, and increases your appetite-stimulating hormone, ghrelin.

If your weight isn’t under control, it’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of sleep apnea and obesity. 


Studies have shown that men are twice as likely to develop sleep apnea as women. Some theories suggest that this may be because men’s airways are larger and shaped differently than women’s, and more likely to collapse during sleep. 

Family history

Often, sleep apnea can be blamed on your family tree. You can inherit an unnaturally narrow throat or a thicker neck from your ancestors, or you might descend from a long line of sleep apnea sufferers. Having large tonsils or adenoids can also block your airways and result in sleep apnea. 

Increased age

As you get older and your muscles begin to weaken, it’s common for your airways to collapse as you sleep. 

Medical conditions

There’s a long list of medical conditions that contribute to and exacerbate sleep apnea. 

If you suffer from heart failure, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, hormonal disorders, prior strokes, or chronic lung disease, you’re at risk for sleep apnea. 

Even milder conditions like allergies and chronic nasal congestion can advance your sleep apnea and its symptoms. 

Substance consumption

Sometimes sleep apnea stems from the harmful substances you put in your body. 

If you take sedatives or other medications that relax your muscles, you risk not being able to breathe properly at night. Alcohol has a similar effect, as it relaxes your throat and airways, making breathing difficult. 

On the other hand, the chemicals in cigarettes increase fluid retention and inflammation in your upper airway. So, when you light up, you may also be stoking the sleep apnea flames. 

If you identify with one or more risk factors, the good news is that there’s a solution to your sleep disorder.

Treating your sleep apnea

No matter what’s causing your sleep apnea, we can treat it. Dr. Wang offers a couple of options when it comes to addressing your sleep apnea: CPAP machine and dental appliances. 

The CPAP, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure, is the most widely used sleep apnea solution. The concept is simple: you wear a mask connected to a breathing machine at night, so you don’t have to worry about losing your breath when you close your eyes. But sleeping with the CPAP isn’t so simple for some people.

For those who can’t tolerate the CPAP machine, Dr. Wang recommends dental sleep appliances. These custom-made appliances fit comfortably in your mouth and position your jaw in the best position to reduce snoring and regulate your breathing. 

When you’re ready to silence your snores and banish the nightmare that is sleep apnea, call our office or book an appointment online today. 

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