Believe it or not, snoring can be a familial problem.
Is snoring genetic?
Well, yes. You can inherit it!
Most people, who snore, have a parent or family member with this difficulty.
What else could it be, if not genetic?
So, now it’s fairly easy to guess if you will suffer from snoring in your life. Just ask your grandparents if they snore.
But the question is how can genes influence snoring?
What This Article Is All About?
This article will explain the relationship of genetic makeup with snoring due to obstructive sleep apnea or other reasons. It will also explain how having a particular genetic trait can perk up your risk of snoring so, keep reading.
Is Snoring Genetic? What Are the Odds?
Many diseases, previously believed to be non-inheritable, are now proving to be genetic. The same is the case with snoring.
On research, that had sampled individuals from Australia and England, proved that snoring has a complex, but well-established, a causal relationship with genetics. The researchers identified approximately 173 genes that were thought to be associated with snoring.
Snoring is associated with 173 genes
There’s a trick in it though.
Many of these genes are also associated with other personality and physical traits. Therefore, you should expect an overlapping between some other characteristics and snoring.
Another study shows that the genetic cause of snoring can constitute up to 40% of cases. This proportion is fairly distributed among various variables:
- Genetic tendencies for other conditions.
It is interesting because, with these genetic studies, humans have now traced down previously unknown risk factors for snoring. With this kind of information, it has become easier to identify sleep troubles and manage them effectively.
Imagine you had no clue about the reason for your snoring. You ask your sleep therapist is snoring genetic? And he tells you that not only it’s in your genes but it’s your higher BMI causing it.
You have a handle to control it now.
The main cause of the genetic association of snoring is obstructive sleep apnea. So, most of the overlapped traits are related to this disease.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the narrowing of your air canal (due to several factors) and resultant deficiency of oxygen. The narrowing also produces a vibratory sound when air strikes various solid structures. That is snoring.
The genetic basis of obstructive sleep apnea has also been established by research. It states that people with congested airway at night mostly inherit it from their ancestors.
Not something you would be eager to take as a family souvenir, eh?
The genetic pool of three traits mainly linked with snoring are:
#1 Snoring and Ethnicity
Ethnicities have a different gene pool. Their special traits have been conserved in their communities for centuries. Humans haven’t started procreating outside their particular race until recently. Therefore, it is obvious that any disorder, prevailing in our society today, with ethnic distribution has its roots in the genetic pool of that particular community.
Snoring is no different. It is frequently found in some races than others; this is the evidence of how genes influence it.
So, your ethnicity can tell you if your risk of snoring is higher. Exciting, right?
- African-Americans and Caucasians
If you are an African-American, you need to be proactive in the management of snoring.
It’s because the snoring is more commonly found in African-Americans as compared to European- Americans or Caucasians.
It also appears to be early in onset and affects the younger age group severely. The severity of snoring is determined by AHI (apnea-hypopnea index).
AHI is measured as the number of times, you wake up in the middle of the night because you are not getting enough oxygen and snoring.
The value greater than 25 is considered severe.
|African-Americans are frequently found to have AHI>25 during the night.|
The higher tendency is believed to be due to the possible structural and neurological characteristics of this community. They have a greater amount of soft tissue surrounding their respiratory tract. Hence, the chances of obstruction are immense.
It is also linked to an obesity epidemic found in this ethnic group. Since obesity is a major risk factor for snoring, it contributes to its severity.
- Pacific Islanders and Europeans
A comparison between Europeans and Pacific Islanders shows that the later have a severe snoring problem. So, now you can understand why Australians deal with snoring this much! This is because of the gene pool that is prolific in the Australian community.
|Australians have more chances of developing a snoring problem.|
The Pacific Islanders have greater neck circumference and body mass index (BMI). The distribution of fats in their body also favors snoring and an obstructive airway. More fats distributed around the neck create congestion and results in snoring.
The severity of snoring is also higher due to three reasons:
- Higher AHI
- Increased duration of apnea
- Lower oxygen saturation during sleep
All these factors collectively make Australians a risk group as compared to your European brethren.
#2 Snoring and Face Structure
Anatomic structure of your head has everything to do with snoring. If your airway is congested due to bulky structures surrounding it, air will produce a vibration while passing through it. This anatomy is determined by the genes. So, your snoring has a strong genetic reason. After all, isn’t it because of genes that you look like your parents?
The effect of genes on facial features and resulting obstructive sleep apnea is justified. The structures and characteristics involved in this are:
- Length of the soft palate
- Length and bulkiness of tongue
- The thickness of soft palate
- Lower-set hyoid bone
- Positioning of mandible
These craniofacial traits determined by genes also determine the severity of snoring. The mal-positioning or bulkiness of any of these structures can take up space and block the air passage.
The research has also shown that facial disproportion can severely compromise the airway and increase the risk of snoring.
Another genetic link of snoring with facial structure can be found in congenital syndromes. Two of the most common genetic diseases which increase the risk of snoring are:
- Down syndrome
- Marfan syndrome
In the table below, you can find the effects of these syndromes on the facial framework that aggravates snoring.
|Down syndrome||Gene on chromosome 21||Enlarged tonsilsLow tone of upper airway tract musclesNarrow nasopharynx|
|Marfans syndrome||FBN1 gene||Sloppy musculature of upper airway causing tongue fall and obstruction|
#3 Snoring and Respiratory Control System
When and how you breathe, matters!
Your respiratory control system has a prime role in snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. It is because of your body’s response to ventilation and its genetic basis. Simplifying it, if your first-degree relative has a lung problem, you are more susceptible to developing obstructive sleep apnea.
Your respiratory instability that is related to snoring can be due to:
- Hypoxia- deficiency of oxygen
- Hypercapnia- excessive carbon dioxide
You inspire air, takes oxygen from it, and expire carbon dioxide. Your body is not designed to keep carbon dioxide inside. It is set in its ways and any alteration in these dynamics can create problems.
Snoring is one of those problems.
Your body has an involuntary, intrinsic mechanism to breathe, by using both these gases. They are its drivers in case of respiration. However, genes also play their role. Those who have a history of lung disease in their families or born with inherited lung issues can have a faulty mechanism.
Resultantly, if your body doesn’t get enough oxygen due to any reason, it goes into apnea. Similarly, if your body has a higher concentration of carbon dioxide, it gets deprived of oxygen. This also happens when you smoke. It leads to chronic oxygen deprivation, abnormal respiratory control, and reduction in your respiratory drive.
This repeated apnea sets your bodily respiration to this reduced oxygen levels. It’s like your lung’s thermostat breaking down!
The permanent damage, however, is obstructive sleep apnea. It also makes your airway more susceptible to collapsibility. The snoring comes with the package.
Another genetic link between respiratory control and snoring can be found on chromosome 8q22. The genes located on these chromosomes are responsible for producing enzymes in your body that are required for maturation of your lungs. A mutation in this can slow down the maturation and disturb the respiratory drive.
The reduction in respiratory drive also convinces your body to take in more oxygen. During sleep, the conscious levels are low; hence, you open your mouth to breath because your body thinks you have sleep apnea. This results in severe snoring.
#4 Snoring and Obesity
Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for snoring.
So, if you want to get rid of snoring, you should think about breaking sweat more often!
The gene that links obesity and snoring is found on chromosome 2. It regulates a hormone that is involved in ventilation through the airway as well as leptin. The former determines the tendency of snoring while later is involved in weight gain.
Leptin controls your hunger and makes you eat. its levels are higher in obese individuals. So, when overwork the leptin gene, respiratory control also goes berserk.
This association should not be underrated as obesity has become an emerging epidemic in the world.
|60% of people with obstructive sleep apnea are also obese.|
The research has proven a significant relationship of weight gain with sleep apnea. It concludes that with a 10% gain in weight, the risk of snoring increases by 36%. The weight loss of a similar quantity, however, reduces the risk by only 26%.
So, keep your weight in check and your snoring problem will automatically disappear.
The Final Verdict
The question “is snoring genetic?” has been hovering around lately. The verdict is that snoring is associated with your genes through various links. Its distribution is scattered over various ethnicities and morbidities. Moreover, there is plenty of evidence to prove its genetic nature.
Australia is located in a region where snoring poses a far greater risk. However, it is a multifactorial trait and can be defeated, if a proactive approach is taken. Finding out the possibility of your genetic makeup being linked to it, is a part of that approach and this article is to help you with that.
Dr. Muhammad Usman is a Doctor, Nutritionist, Wellness Coach and a Researcher with a deep insight into all aspects of writing related to health and science.