US News: Here’s what can exacerbate obstructive sleep apnea or put people at risk for the nighttime breathing disorder.

Anatomy: For some people, an anatomic abnormality may be the culprit. Enlarged tonsils, a deviated septum or a smaller-than-normal airway are among them, says Dr. David Schulman, a sleep medicine specialist with Emory Healthcare in Atlanta.

Obesity: “The main factor that contributes to sleep apnea is obesity,” says Dr. Asha Singh, director of the Oregon Health & Science University Sleep Medicine Program in Portland. Although thin folks can develop apnea, more than 50% of people who have the condition are overweight, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Alcohol: “Alcohol increases muscle relaxation, and that’s true for the muscles of the throat – and actually the tongue muscle,” says Dr. Kathleen Yaremchuk, chair of otolaryngology and a sleep specialist at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. This makes the airway more vulnerable to obstruction during sleep.

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