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Is Snoring Genetic?

We inherit so much from our parents (and ancestors) including facial structure, hair color, and body type.  Even behavior and personality is influenced by our genes.  However, our genes are not our destiny—they just influence.  For example, a person with a family history of heart conditions is not guaranteed to have a heart condition—but the probability is higher. Likewise, snoring may have some genetic connections.

The more we know about our genetic background, the more we can adjust our lives to avoid lurking problems.

Snoring

Most people snore from time-to-time. It occurs more often in men and the overweight.  Occasional snoring is not a problem.

Problem snoring

If snoring is habitual, significant health problems may present themselves. One of the more common ones is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Risk factors for OSA include some which may be genetically influenced, including

  • Excess weight—obesity increases the risk of sleep apnea by 400% and increases the risk of fatty deposits in the throat.
  • Neck circumference—thicker necks may mean narrower airways; it may be a better predictor for OSA than obesity.
  • Men—men are more likely to have sleep apnea.
  • Narrowed airway—some airways may be narrower than typical because of genetic background.

While not directly or necessarily fatal, OSA leads to several problems, including

  • Breathing interruptions caused by the obstructions.
  • Frequent waking to breathe, although the snorer may be unaware of waking up.
  • Light sleeping, because apnea most often happens in the lighter levels of sleep, and prevents the body for getting into deeper sleep.
  • The strain on the heart caused by blood pressure variations.
  • Daytime drowsiness which interferes with daily life.

There’s no gene for snoring, as far as we know in 2017. As noted previously, some of the risk factors for OSA have a genetic component. Since snoring is a significant symptom of OSA, those factors provide a genetic influence on whether a person is a snorer.

Snoring families

Some people come from families of snorers, even if no sleep apnea is present. One study reported a strong connection between a blood type, family history, and habitual snoring. Another found that self-reported incidence of daytime sleepiness and snoring had a genetic basis largely separable from genes connected with obesity.

Narrower air passages or obesity may also run in families. If you come from a family of snorers, your risk of being a snorer is increased by 300%.

Insights into narcolepsy have connections to the genetics of snoring. A certain variation in a gene connected with the immune system demonstrates a connection with narcolepsy. Other genetic connections include some hormone production, including one connected with the respiratory and sleep-wake mechanisms.

Obesity and genetics

Some genes directly cause obesity through one of the several disorders. Absent those disorders, genes in combination with behavior may lead to obesity. Both are needed.

Obesity runs in families, as shown through studies of families and identical twins. Possessing the genes, however, is insufficient to produce obesity. These genes do, however, increase susceptibility to environmental factors which promote obesity.

One of those factors, at least for most people in the U.S., is the abundance of food. Food is available almost everywhere at any time. People, simply put, eat (and drink) too much, and this abundance, plus possession of a gene or genes connected with obesity can lead to obesity.

This risk increases when coupled with the decrease in activity levels throughout life, including work, domestic, and leisure time.

Other genetic factors

Being male or having a thick neck are two factors which are largely genetic. Most people have little control over these aspects of their genetic makeup. Narrowed airways, which are affected by genetics during developing, also are out of an individual’s control.

Controlling snoring

No one can change his or her parents; we are stuck with our genes. We can, however, control the environmental factors which connect with genetic traits, including those for obesity. If we can limit those effects, then the genetic connection to snoring can also be limited.

  • Move more and eat less—rather than follow a specific diet plan, most of which fall apart, simply watch what you eat, eat intentionally, and move around more; work on getting 10,000 paces per day.
  • Lower alcohol consumption—alcohol tends to relax muscles and thus increases the risk of snoring and sleep apnea (and adds calories to the diet).

A few lifestyle changes can lead to a lessening of snoring, no matter what the genetic contribution is. Genes are not destiny; act to be in control yourself.

About the Author Robert J. Hudson

Chief editor here at Snore Nation and a proud father of two cool boys. I am a reformed snorer, a reformed smoker, a reformed overeater, a reformed city dweller and a reformed workaholic stress monster on the mission to share my insider tips to restore that quality sleep for you and your partner!

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