Risk factors associated with Sleep Apnoea

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The main risk factors for developing apnoea/hypopnoea syndrome (SAHS) in adulthood are:

Obesity can be cause and/or risk factor of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Obesity. Being overweight leads to an accumulation of fat in the neck and base of the tongue; this increases the likelihood of the upper airway (UAW) collapsing while asleep. In addition, the fat deposited between the muscle fibres in the throat reduces their ability to contract.


Male. Men have a greater pharyngeal and laryngeal resistance than women.

Elderly man and woman with cane

Age. Pharyngeal resistance increases as we get older.

Beer mug and wine glass

Alcohol. Alcohol intensifies snoring in both healthy individuals and people with SAHS. It is a central nervous system depressant that reduces the body’s response to hypoxia and, therefore, lowers the threshold for waking up during apnoea. Since alcohol is a vasodilator, it also exacerbates pharyngeal resistance.


Tobacco. Smoking irritates the mucous membranes.

Green, blue and white striped tablets

Hypnotics or central nervous system depressants such as codeine, morphine, neuroleptics, anxiolytics or barbiturates, among others.

Dysphagia, difficulty to swallow

Anatomical factors that favour the obstruction of the upper airway (UAW). Adeno-amygdala obstruction, craniofacial abnormalities.


Hormonal factors such as hypothyroidism.

Respiratory sounds or lung whistles

Neurological and respiratory diseases.

Substantiated information by:

Cristina Embid
Josep M. Montserrat Canal
M Concepción Ruiz Sánchez

Published: 16 January 2020
Updated: 16 January 2020

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