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Getting a good night’s sleep is a critical component of good health. When we are well-rested, our bodies function better. If you are thin and in shape, you might think that sleep apnea couldn’t possibly affect your sleep quality. However, sleep apnea can affect people of all body types, not just those who are overweight.

This article delves into how sleep apnea can impact thin individuals. We will also explore the potential underlying causes and the importance of awareness and timely intervention for effectively managing this sleep disorder.

The Relationship Between Body Weight and Sleep Apnea 

Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by interruptions in breathing during sleep caused by an obstruction to the airway. Over 33 million people in the United States receive treatment for sleep apnea, which can include the use of a CPAP or BiPAP machine during sleep. 

Overweight people are more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea than those who are not. Fat deposits in the upper respiratory tract narrow the airways, making it more difficult for air to pass through.

This can lead to loud and excessive snoring, insomnia, waking up often throughout the night, and general poor sleep, which can, in turn, lead to further health complications. Because of this, it is important for people who think they might have sleep apnea to be tested and diagnosed, which can be done in person at a sleep lab or through an at-home test.

Reasons Thin People Might Develop Sleep Apnea

While those who are overweight are at greater risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea, people of any body type and size can also have this disorder. Besides obesity, risk factors for developing sleep apnea can include a person’s unique anatomy, other medical conditions, and the use of alcohol and tranquilizers to aid in sleep.

Anatomy and Family History 

A person’s anatomy and family history can put them at increased risk for developing sleep apnea. For example, a person with a naturally large neck, smaller airway, large tonsils and adenoids, or a receding chin or setback jaw might be more likely to have sleep apnea.

Studies have also shown that there might be a genetic component to sleep apnea. If you have family members who have been diagnosed with the condition, you are at increased risk of having it yourself.

Counterintuitively, being extremely fit also increases your risk of developing sleep apnea, especially if you have a lot of muscle development in the neck area. These muscles can put increased pressure on the airway during sleep in the same way fat deposits do in someone who is obese.

Medical Conditions 

Medical conditions can also contribute to the development of sleep apnea in a skinny person. For example, hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, can lead to swelling of the tissues in the upper airway, as well as a reduction in muscle tone, contributing to airway obstruction.

Similarly, gastric reflux, also known as heartburn, can cause sleep apnea when stomach acid comes back up through the esophagus. This acid reflux can cause spasms of the vocal cords and lead to airway obstruction during sleep.

Allergies that cause nasal congestion can also be a factor. When nasal airflow is obstructed by this congestion, it is more difficult to breathe through the nose during sleep.

The Use of Alcohol, Cigarettes, and Tranquilizers

Studies have shown that the use of alcohol can dramatically impact the prevalence of sleep apnea. Those who consume high amounts of alcohol are 25% more likely to develop sleep apnea than those who don’t. Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the neck and throat, which can lead to obstructing the airway during sleep.

Likewise, smoking can irritate the airways, causing inflammation. The inflammation can result in a narrower airway, leading to sleep apnea. There is also evidence that sleep apnea might lead those who suffer from the disorder to be more likely to smoke.

Tranquilizers that some people take to help them sleep can also relax the airway, leading to obstruction. It hurts to think that the medication you take to help you sleep may actually be contributing to your problem. Some medications that can cause this are benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium, as well as opiates, including OxyContin, Vicodin, and morphine.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms to Look Out For

Even if you are thin and in shape, you should be on the lookout for potential symptoms of sleep apnea. If you or your partner notice that you snore excessively and loudly, have trouble sleeping, experience insomnia, or feel extreme tiredness and sleepiness during the day, you might have sleep apnea.

DreamZz Sleep Center Can Help if You Are Thin and Experiencing Sleep Apnea Symptoms

If you think you can’t have sleep apnea because you are skinny, you could be wrong. Multiple factors can contribute to the development of this sleep disorder.

Reach out to DreamZz Sleep Center if you are experiencing symptoms. We have the knowledge and resources to help diagnose your issue and get you quickly on the path to better sleep.

Contact us to schedule your consultation as soon as possible.