What are the causes of Sleep APNOEA?

Sleep apnoea is caused by factors that make the throat narrow more than usual during sleep. If the throat is narrower to start with, for example because the tonsils are enlarged, it is easier for the throat muscles to close and block the airway. Other causes of a narrowed throat include: 

  • set-back lower jaw; 
  • partially blocked nose, for example caused by rhinitis (inflammation of the nose lining) or nasal polyps (benign growths, often occurring as a result of allergic conditions such as hayfever); 
  • being overweight, particularly with a short thick neck (fat in the neck squashes the throat from outside); 
  • enlarged adenoids or tonsils;  
  • physiological features inside the mouth, such as a particularly large tongue or small opening to the pharynx; 
  • excessive alcohol, sedative drugs or strong painkillers. 

Men and older people are more likely to experience sleep apnoea. 




Information source: NHS Direct Online Health Encyclopedia, 2005