Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder. During sleep, it causes breathing to cease and start periodically. Adults typically take 12-16 breaths each minute.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a condition that develops when the muscles relax after falling asleep. As a result, soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses, obstructing the airway. This results in either a decrease (hypopnea)(1) or a pause in breathing (apnea).
There are various varieties of sleep apnea, but OSA is the most common. This type of apnea occurs when your throat muscles relax intermittently after you fall asleep, obstructing your airway. When you sleep, your muscles relax throughout your body (muscle atonia; paralysis). This includes the muscles that keep your throat open and allow air to enter your lungs. During sleep, the neck normally remains wide enough to allow air to pass through. Unfortunately, many people have a constricted throat as a result of one or more factors. When the muscles in the upper throat relax while sleeping, the narrow throat shuts in and partially or totally blocks the airway, causing either a reduction or a complete pause in breathing. OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) is the involuntary cessation of breathing during sleep.
Loud snoring is a symptom of OSA caused by air pushing through a restricted or obstructed airway. Many people do not consider snoring to be an indication of anything severe, and while not everyone who snores has OSA, the majority of individuals who snore loudly do. While you have OSA, your snoring is normally loudest when you sleep on your back, and it sometimes quiets down when you sleep on your side.
If you have been told that you snore loudly and frequently, it is time to consult with your doctor regarding OSA.
There are OSA treatments available. The most typical treatment is to utilize a positive pressure device (CPAP, BiPAP, or APAP machine) to keep your airway open while you sleep. A mouthpiece that pushes your lower jaw forward while you sleep is another possibility. Surgery may also be a possibility in rare circumstances.