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Risk factors

It is estimated that more than 12 million Americans this disorder. Anyone can have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA); it may occur if you are old or young, male or female. Even children can have sleep apnea.

Certain factors put you at increased risk:

Excess weight

Fat tissue around your upper airway may obstruct your breathing. However, not everyone who has sleep apnea is overweight. Thin people can have this disorder tool.


Men are twice as likely to have OSA as women. However, women increase their risk if they are overweight, and the risk will rise after menopause.

Neck circumference

The size of your neck may indicate if you are at increased risk for OSA. A thick neck may narrow the airway and is possibly an indicator of excess weight. For men a neck circumference greater than 17 inches is associated with an increased risk for OSA.


If you are older than 65 you are two to three times more likely to have OSA.
High blood pressure (hypertension). Sleep apnea is common in people with hypertension.

Structure of face and neck

OSA is more common in people with a small or narrow maxilla (boney area in roof of mouth). Large tonsils or large tongue can also increase the risk of OSA.


Smokers are at greater risk than nonsmokers. Smoking will increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway. Smoking cessation will eliminate this risk factor.

Use of sedatives, alcohol or tranquilizers

These substances relax the muscles in your throat, increasing the risk of obstruction. 

Sleep Center