Grandpa was a snorer and so is your mother. Does that mean you’re genetically destined to snore too? Studies show that snoring is linked to genetics. Coming from a family of snorers makes it 3x more likely that you currently snore or will start.

Is Snoring Genetic?

Physical Features

A narrow throat or airway may contribute to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. The trait can be traced through multiple generations. Moreover, a predisposition for snoring can be linked to other family facial and physical elements.

Just as physical attributes like eye and hair color are inherited, elements of bone and facial structure can be shared by a gene pool. The following physical features may facilitate snoring:

  • Narrow throat
  • Receded chin
  • Small jaw
  • Large tongue
  • Large, soft palate

Obesity

Genes play a role in determining a person’s body fat and mass. More fat decreases the amount of muscle tone throughout the body. Moreover, increased fat creates added tissue around the throat and neck area, which can cause snoring. Also, the distribution of fat, or where a person tends to hold weight on their body, is genetically linked.

Being overweight poses its own risk because it leads to the development of added tissue in the throat. In addition to snoring, OSA can lead to high blood pressure and affect the heart. Those who are overweight and have a family history of snoring are especially prone to snore.

Snoring in Children

A 2006 study of children echoes recent findings.

  • The children of parents who snore, were 3x more likely to snore themselves.
  • 15% of the children who snored did so three or more times per week
  • Those with at least one parent who snored frequently were 3x more likely to be snorers than children whose parents did not snore
  • Children testing positive for allergies were more than 2x as likely to be frequent snorers

Blood Markers

Blood tests may help doctors screen for obstructive sleep apnea. Frequent snoring is often a precursor for seeking a sleep test or getting a sleep study. Screening for changes in biomarkers may help identify those with OSA. The study demonstrated that sleep apnea creates a signature change in blood biomarkers such as A1C (for blood sugar levels) and CRP (for inflammation markers). Using blood tests as an additional screening tool may help doctors identify patients who are at high risk and should get tested for sleep apnea.

Snoring Prevalence and Risk Factors

Recent genetic research gives sleep experts good reason to pursue the link between snoring. However, snoring is also linked to behavior and other factors.

  • Snoring is significantly associated with age and sex (more prevalent as you age and within males)
  • A higher body mass index, smoking nicotine (higher prevalence in females), and alcohol consumption (higher prevalence in males) are associated with snoring

Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Family members share particular attributes that lead to snoring in addition to OSA (obstructive sleep apnea). Snoring is a hallmark of obstructive sleep apnea.

20-25% do not snore, yet sleep apnea may affect as many as 20-40% of the snoring population. Many cases continue to go undiagnosed.

New Research Linked to Snoring and Genetics

In the past, a link between snoring and genetics has been recognized, but there was no defined “snoring gene.” Now, research finds 173 genes linked to snoring. Many of these genes correspond to respiratory, cardio-metabolic, neurological, and psychiatric traits.

Moreover, 80% of those same genes linked to snoring are associated with being at risk in developing obstructive sleep apnea. Historically, lifestyle and behavior were major predispositions for snoring. Now, research shows genetics play a significant role.

Should You Be Concerned About Genetics and Snoring?

If you don’t have trouble sleeping, aren’t experiencing other symptoms of sleep apnea, and there is no family history of snoring or sleep disorders, there is little reason for concern. However, if you’ve been snoring and feel like it’s affecting your sleep and quality of life, it’s time to do something about it.

A sleep study or at home sleep test allows for professional assessment and diagnosis. From there, educated sleep experts can help recommend the best action to take.

 

 

 

 

References:

Jennum P, et al. Snoring, family history, and genetic markers in men. The Copenhagen Male Study. Chest 1995; 107(5): 1289-1293. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7750320

Cade BE, et al. Genetic associations with obstructive sleep apnea traits in Hispanic/Latino Americans. American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine 2016; 194: 886–897. PMC5074655

Fleming WE, Holty JC, Bogan RK, et al. Use of blood biomarkers to screen for obstructive sleep apnea. Nat Sci Sleep. 2018;10:159–167; doi: 10.2147/nss.s164488.

Peppard PE, Young T, Barnet JH, Palta M, Hagen EW, Hla KM. Increased prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing in adults. Am J Epidemiol. 2013;177(9):1006–1014; doi: 10.1093/aje/kws342.

Bauters, F. A. et al. Phenotype and risk burden of sleep apnea. Hypertension. 74, 1052–1062 (2019).

Ferini-Strambi, L. et al. Snoring in twins. Respir. Med. 89, 337–340 (1995).

Jennum, P., Hein, H. O., Suadicani, P., Sørensen, H. & Gyntelberg, F. Snoring, family history, and genetic markers in men. The Copenhagen Male Study. Chest 107, 1289–1293 (1995).