Sleep Apnea: 7 Spooky Aspects

My how the year is flying by! Halloween is right around the corner; Thanksgiving and Christmas are looming. The fall season brings about hoodies & sweatpants, bonfires & s’mores, and hayrides & cider…

Consequently, the summer/fall changeover also brings stuffed noses, congestion, sinus problems, and over-agitated sleep apnea symptoms!


Obstructive sleep apnea is a beast of a condition, especially when a drastic change of season takes effect. Please allow me to “clear the air” for you regarding some concerning aspects of OSA.

Here are 7 aspects of sleep apnea that may spook you without having proper knowledge of them.

  1. Sleep apnea can be hereditary
  2. Obesity can be a cause
  3. Smoking makes OSA much worse
  4. Snoring should NOT be ignored
  5. Diabetes can be a factor in OSA
  6. Treatment type is a “case-to-case” issue
  7. Untreated sleep apnea is deadly

1. Sleep Apnea can be Hereditary

Yes, research suggests that obstructive sleep apnea can be a hereditary condition. Many factors lead to this determination. Inherited genetic traits can also be traits that lead to OSA, such as:

  • Structure of your skull and jaw bones- Specific bone structures of your skull, more specifically the jaw, have a direct effect on the ability of you to breath properly.
  • Upper airway muscles- The nature of your upper airway muscles also affect the ability for you to sustain normal breathing while asleep. (if your parent’s airway muscles were weak, its reasonable to think that yours are, as well)
  • Body fat content- Genetic traits, such as obesity, are major factors in the development of sleep apnea.

2. Obesity is a Cause & Effect

  • Studies show that obesity can be a direct cause of sleep apnea. But, it can be an effect of sleep apnea, as well…
  • The research shows that OSA is twice as prevalent in individuals that have obese traits over people of a normal, healthy weight. Moreover, the obesity epidemic that society faces is leading to more and more cases of children and young adults developing sleep apnea.
  • Additionally, the ongoing effect of untreated sleep apnea can lead to you gaining weight. The lack of proper sleep that OSA presents causes your body to not function at its best.

3. Smoking makes OSA Worse

no smoking signSmoking cigarettes and cigars affects sleep apnea in three ways:

  • Upper airway inflammation: Inhaling the smoke will cause the upper airway to become inflamed, therefore causing breathing issues.
  • Upper airway muscles: The nicotine found in cigarettes and cigars is highly addictive. Nicotine puts a strain on the muscles in the upper airway, leading to breathing trouble.
  • Nicotine withdrawal: Throughout the night, your body goes through mini withdrawals (due to lack of nicotine) which makes sound sleep impossible.

4. Snoring Should NOT be Ignored

Snoring, regardless of the cause, can be harmful to your health. Occasional snoring is not necessarily an issue, but habitual snoring is something to take seriously. Complications include:

  • Breathing lapses: short periods of not breathing during your sleep due to a partial or total obstruction or blockage of the airway.
  • Waking up frequently: Even though you may not realize it, snoring causes you to wake up frequently throughout the night.
  • Light sleeping: Waking up so many times interferes with your normal sleep pattern, consequently more time is spent in light sleep than in more effective, deep sleep.
  • Heart issues: Prolonged issues with snoring results in high blood pressure and can cause enlargement of the heart, with higher risks of heart attack and stroke.

5. Diabetes and OSA are Connected

Studies suggest that a person with type 2 diabetes has a 50% probability of developing sleep apnea. The two conditions go hand-in-hand due to their common risk factors, the most common being obesity. The stress brought about by sleep apnea causes an increase in blood sugar levels. As a result, the blood sugar contributes to a resistance to insulin.

6. Treatment Type is a “Case-by-Case” Issue

sleep apnea

There are numerous treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea. However, the success of treatment is based on multiple factors. No single treatment is a guarantee to work for one person just because it worked for another.

Possible treatments include:

  • CPAP/BiPAP Therapy: Pressurized air is forced through your airways via a tube that connects to a device. The air is pushed through the tube and enters your airway through a mask. Pressures are medically prescribed by sleep physicians and can either be a set pressure, or a range of pressure; the prescriptions depend on the severity of the OSA.
  • Oral Apparatus: You insert a device that keeps your airway open, and/or adjusts your jaw position. While CPAP therapy is more reliably effective, the oral treatment may be easier to use.
  • Surgery: In some cases a surgical procedure may be the option that best suits you. Surgery options include:
    • Jaw repositioning: Your jaw is moved forward away from your face bones. As a result, the space behind the tongue and soft palate is enlarged, making an obstruction less likely.
    • Tissue removal: Your doctor removes tissue from the rear of your mouth and top of your throat. This procedure is not as reliable as CPAP therapy, but can indeed relieve snoring.
    • Implants: Your doctor implants plastic rods into the soft palate. Little research on this procedure is available, therefore making the reliability of this option impossible.
    • Nerve stimulation: The surgeon inserts a device that stimulates the nerve responsible for tongue movement. The increased stimulation helps keep the tongue in a position that keeps the airway open. Research on this procedure is limited.

7. Untreated Sleep Apnea can be Deadly

Above all, untreated sleep apnea can lead you down an unhealthy path. Complications from ignored OSA are as follows…

  • Developing high blood pressure
  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Developing heart disease
  • Having a heart attack
  • Suffering a stroke
  • Contracting type 2 diabetes
  • Driving and/or work-related accidents


  • Compton, Jackie. “Nicotine, Smoking and Sleep Apnea.” Snoring, Sleep Apnea, Sleep Studies, CPAP, BiPAP, 16 Dec. 2017,
  • Hutter, Sarah. “The Type 2 Diabetes and Sleep Apnea Connection.” Stroke Center –, Everyday Health, 18 Feb. 2016,
  • “Is Sleep Apnea Hereditary?” ResMed, 2018,
  • Romero-Corral, Abel, et al. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2010,
  • Sapienza, Sherry. “Boomers: Why Do Those Who Snore Always Fall Asleep First?” The Boomer Explorer, 5 July 2018,
  • “Sleep Apnea.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 July 2018,
  • “The Basics of Snoring.” WebMD, WebMD, 8 July 2018,

About the Author


Jason Smith is recognized by the board of polysomnographic technologists (BRPT) as a registered polysomnographic technologist (RPSGT) since 2003. He is also Director of Clinical Operations for 6 multi-state sleep diagnostic facilities including the nation’s largest 20 bed sleep disorder testing center. Jason has also been a Co-Author with two research publications featured in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.