Can a Deviated Septum Cause Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea Cartoon Illustration

Yes, a deviated septum can contribute to or exacerbate sleep apnea in some individuals. The nasal septum is the wall of cartilage and bone that separates the two nostrils. When it is deviated or crooked, it can lead to various issues, including obstructed airflow through the nasal passages. Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by brief interruptions in breathing during sleep, and these interruptions can be due to several factors, including nasal obstruction caused by a deviated septum. Here’s how a deviated septum can be related to sleep apnea:

  • Airflow Restriction: A deviated septum can result in one or both nasal passages being narrowed or obstructed, making it more challenging to breathe through the nose. This can lead to increased airflow resistance, especially during sleep when the muscles that control the airway are more relaxed. In individuals with sleep apnea, this increased resistance can exacerbate or contribute to the apnea events.
  • Nasal Congestion: A deviated septum may also be associated with chronic nasal congestion or stuffiness. Nasal congestion can lead to mouth breathing during sleep, which, in turn, can make the airway more collapsible and increase the risk of sleep apnea events.
  • Snoring: People with a deviated septum are more likely to snore. Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, and while not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, it is a potential indicator of an increased risk.

It’s important to note that a deviated septum is just one of many potential factors that can contribute to sleep apnea. Other risk factors for sleep apnea include obesity, family history, smoking, alcohol consumption, and anatomical features of the airway, among others.

If you suspect that you have sleep apnea or if you have a deviated septum that is causing sleep disturbances, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, such as an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist) or a sleep medicine specialist. They can assess your condition, recommend appropriate diagnostic tests, and provide guidance on potential treatments, which may include lifestyle changes, the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, or surgical interventions like septoplasty to correct the deviated septum.

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