WebMD Logo Icon
WebMD Connect to Care helps you find services to manage your health. When you purchase any of these services, WebMD may receive a fee. WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page. X

Can a Deviated Septum Cause Sleep Apnea?

By Zawn Villines
A deviated septum can cause sleep apnea or worsen symptoms of the sleep disorder. People with deviated septums may also snore even when they don’t have sleep apnea.

A deviated septum is a common issue that can affect your health and your sleep. People with deviated septums may wake frequently because they are unable to breathe well at night. In some cases, a deviated septum may either cause or worsen symptoms of sleep apnea. 

Can a Deviated Septum Really Cause Sleep Apnea? 

“A deviated septum can cause obstructive sleep apnea due to a blockage or narrowing in the airways,” Jenna Liphart Roads, Ph.D and R.N., tells WebMD Connect to Care. 

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. This happens when the upper airway partially collapses into itself during sleep, resulting in multiple breathing stoppages throughout the night. 

The septum is the bone and cartilage that divides the nose in half. Damage to the septum, such as from a blow to the face, can push the septum off-center and create nasal passages that are uneven in size. This is known as a deviated septum, which can also be an inherited genetic characteristic. 

People with a deviated septum may also breathe through their mouths at night in an attempt to get more air. “Mouth breathing can contribute to sleep apnea,” K. L. Ong, MBBS, a doctor in Singapore, tells WebMD Connect to Care. 

Some other risk factors for the sleep disorder include being obese, male, drinking, smoking, advancing age, using sedatives at night, and sleeping on your back. 

“A deviated septum cannot be fixed without surgical intervention; however, symptoms can be alleviated by reducing swelling in the nasal passageways. Treatments such as antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal steroids are all nonsurgical treatments used to decrease nasal passage swelling,” Liphart says. 

According to Ong, correction of a deviated nasal septum can improve nasal breathing but rarely cures sleep apnea.

If you have both conditions, you may need surgery on your nose and treatment for your sleep apnea. Only a doctor can diagnose these conditions, so don’t assume all snoring is sleep apnea or that all nighttime breathing difficulties come from a deviated septum. A prompt diagnosis can help you get the right care, and prevent sleep issues from getting worse. 

Think you may have sleep apnea? Start your journey to more restful sleep TODAY.

Untreated sleep disorders can negatively affect your physical and emotional health. Sleep testing can help you get the answers you need to receive the treatment you deserve. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.