Can a Deviated Septum Cause Sleep Apnea ?

Loss of sleep can be the cause of a variety of symptoms and health problems with the body. Mental, emotional, and physical health can all suffer if you aren’t getting enough sleep. In fact, people who do not get adequate amounts of restorative sleep on a regular basis often suffer from difficulties such as memory loss, slow reaction times, mood changes, disorientation, and even a number of related physical health problems.

Sleep apnea is a serious sleeping disorder that can have detrimental effects on the health, even possibly shortening a person’s span of life. And sometimes sleep apnea can be linked to other problems with the health, such as a deviated septum.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which the body ceases breathing for periods of time during sleep. This may be cause be a malfunction in the brain (Central Sleep Apnea—CSA) or, more commonly, may be due to an obstruction in the breathing passages (Obstructive Sleep Apnea—OSA) that constricts the airways and keeps the body from getting enough oxygen and from releasing carbon dioxide. No matter the cause, sleep apnea is a condition that may be very dangerous is left undiagnosed, causing serious health conditions such as heart disease or stroke.

Let’s take a look at the symptoms and risk factors of sleep apnea, in order to better understand this condition:

  • Loud snoring
  • Waking up with a dry or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Waking with a sensation of gasping for air or choking occasionally
  • Insomnia or lack of restorative sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness, even during activity such as driving
  • Mood changes, memory loss, reduced libido, irritability
  • Fatigue or lack of energy

Some people are more likely than others to develop sleep apnea. Certain risk factors should be considered to determine if you are at risk for developing a sleeping disorder such as sleep apnea:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Being male (twice as many sleep apnea patients are men)
  • Large neck circumference (17” or larger in men, 16” or larger in women)
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Smoking (smokers are three times more likely to develop sleep apnea)
  • Use of alcohol, tranquilizers, or sedatives
  • Older age (older adults are much more likely to develop this condition)
  • Enlarged tonsils or adenoids in children
  • Blocked breathing passages due to allergies or other problems with nasal congestion

One of the notable health problems that can cause Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the existence of blocked breathing passages. Children who have swollen tonsils or adenoids may be more likely to develop sleep apnea due to airways that are obstructed and limit the ability to breathe. People who have chronic stuffy noses from allergies, or congested nasal passages, may also be more likely to be snorers and eventually develop sleep apnea if their breathing is inhibited during sleep. Sleep apnea has also been linked to breathing problems with people who have a deviated septum.

What is Deviated Septum?

One of the most common types of nasal obstruction, a deviated septum is when a person has an irregular shape of the nasal passages. The septum is the bone and cartilage partition in the nasal passages that separates the two chambers, located between the nostrils. The nasal septum should typically be straight but, if this is malformed then it can cause blockage and problems with breathing.

Signs and symptoms of a deviated septum include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Repeated or recurrent sinus infections
  • Nosebleeds
  • Facial pain
  • Postnasal drip
  • Headache
  • Snoring or loud breathing during sleep

A nasal septum deviation may be caused by a variety of situations. Some babies have a deviated septum when they are born, while other people develop them as a result of injury or trauma to the nose. This can be so subtle when it happens that the person is not even aware of it (for instance, getting hit in the face with a ball or some other type of sports injury).

Deviated Septum and Sleep Apnea

Medical professionals have determined that a deviated septum may actually be one of the causes of obstructive sleep apnea. Since the wall of the nasal cavity is malformed, breathing on one or both sides of the nose may be inhibited, and the body may not be able to breathe as well as it should during sleep.

The problem with deviated septum and sleep apnea is treatment. While many people benefit from Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine treatment, this may not be as effective for people who have a deviated septum. CPAP therapy attaches a breathing machine to through a fitted mask and hoses, providing a continuous flow of air into the nose during sleep. This works well for many people with sleep apnea as it keeps their breathing passages open.

People with a deviated septum, however, still may not benefit from CPAP therapy as the problem with air blockage may not be solved by airflow as it still may not be able to get through the nasal passages. Oral appliances have also been used as treatments for many people with obstructive sleep apnea but, again, since the problem is not in the mouth this approach may not work.

Many doctors believe that the best treatment for obstructive sleep apnea caused by deviated septum may be surgery. Septoplasty is a commonly used surgical procedure that repairs the septum and creates improved airflow for both sides of the nose. This may require general anesthesia but is typically performed as an outpatient procedure. Other types of surgeries for the nose are not particularly invasive, and many of them can be performed under local anesthetic in a doctor’s office.

Septoplasty may not always completely cure problems with obstructive sleep apnea and deviated septum, but it often provides a significant improvement in the way that patients are able to breathe. This allows other treatments for OSA, such as CPAP, to work more effectively. Ultimately, the quality of life is improved and the risks of secondary illnesses related to sleep apnea are minimized.

If you believe that you have either sleep apnea or a deviated septum, it is important for you to contact your health care provider for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


So the answer to the question, “ Can a Deviated Septum Cause Sleep Apnea ? ” is certainly yes. But the good news is that the problem does not have to ruin your life. Through a doctor’s care, access to treatment such as CPAP machine or special CPAP pillows, people who have sleep apnea caused by deviated septum are able to improve the quality of sleep, which ultimately improves the quality of their entire lives!

Special offer for our visitors

Get your Free Sleeping Guide