Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea can occur in all ages and genders. However, certain factors may increase the risk of developing sleep apnea. Knowing your risk factors can help you take certain precautions or modify your lifestyle to prevent sleep apnea from forming or growing worse.

Small Upper Airway

One of the most common causes of OSA is a small upper airway. There are many causes of small upper airways including incorrect jaw development. Incorrect jaw development usually occurs from improper oral posture, mouth breathing, or tongue position as a child. These same jaw development problems may also contribute to TMJ. With Dr. Pribyl’s help, he can correct improper jaw development using a comprehensive treatment plan.

Enlarged Tonsils and Adenoids

Children who suffer from sleep apnea usually have enlarged tonsils and adenoids. When tonsils and adenoids become enlarged (usually from frequent throat infections), they can block a child’s nasal passage and cause sleep apnea. Surgery to remove the tonsils and adenoids can resolve sleep apnea in children.

Recessed Chin and Overbite

When the lower jaw is set back further than the upper jaw, the chin looks recessed and the teeth show an overbite. This development issue doesn’t just cause facial changes, it also causes the jaw to obstruct the airway.

Smoking and Alcohol Use

Drinking alcohol or taking sedatives at night such as muscle relaxers can cause your throat muscles to relax too much and therefore cause your airway to become obstructed. Smoking is another habit that interferes with your body’s sleep cycle and has a lasting impact on rest. Studies show that those who smoke are more likely to have sleep apnea than those who don’t smoke. Smoking can damage the upper airway muscles, increase mucus congestion in the upper airway, and disrupt the sleep cycle. If you regularly drink, smoke, or take sedatives, it can increase your chance of having sleep apnea.


Although both men and women can get sleep apnea, sleep apnea is most common in men and post-menopausal women. The chance of getting sleep apnea increases with age and is most common in those ages 40 and older and increases even more past age 60.


Weight plays a significant factor in whether or not you have sleep apnea. When there is excess weight in the throat, it causes the throat tissue to collapse and become obstructed. Those with larger neck circumferences (greater than 17 inches for men or 16 or greater for women) can increase your risk of sleep apnea.


Some people are more likely to get sleep apnea due to genetic reasons. OSA can run in families.

Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and Treatment in Lee’s Summit, MO

After accessing your risk, please visit our sleep apnea symptoms page to determine if you show any of the symptoms of sleep apnea. If you believe you may have sleep apnea, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis. Dr. Larry Pribyl at Center for TMJ and Sleep Apnea can refer you to a sleep clinic to take a sleep test at home. Once you receive your diagnosis, Dr. Pribyl will work with your physician to provide you with an effective sleep apnea treatment plan.

With the right treatment plan, you can get your life back and decrease your risk of the dangers of sleep apnea. Contact our About the Doctors today for a consultation by calling (816) 795-1000.