We know that curly hair and height run in the family, but is the tendency to snore inherited as well? When it comes to the type of snoring that is related to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the answer may be yes: There is a genetic connection. Here are some of the inheritable traits that contribute to OSA-related snoring:
A Narrow Airway
One factor that can influence a case of OSA is the size of a person’s airway. People with narrower throats are more susceptible to snoring or OSA, and this trait tends to be found across multiple generations in a family. If it’s common among your older relatives, it may increase your odds of becoming a snorer as well. Two other factors that contribute to narrower airways—facial structure and neural control of the upper airway muscles—also have genetic components, meaning if they appear in one generation they are likely to also appear in the next.
While lifestyle habits play an important role in determining a person’s body size, being overweight or obese also has hereditary causes. Genes can help determine the amount of body fat you have and how your body uses calories when exercising. Excess weight contributes to poor muscle tone and more tissue around the neck and throat—and both impact snoring. What’s more, body-fat distribution—or where the fat on your body tends to be located—has a genetic component and is an important factor when it comes to OSA.
Even without OSA, habitual snoring seems to run in families. Two genetic markers found in the blood have been identified as having a strong positive correlation to snoring. Coupled with a family history, these markers suggest that snoring is, to a certain extent, a hereditary experience.
If your sleep in being disrupted by snoring (your own or your spouse’s), talk with your doctor about your family’s history of snoring to gain a better understanding of the causes behind this frustrating situation, and what you can do to treat it.