Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when the jaw and the tongue rest against the back of the throat and cause the air flow to become blocked. It is often found, but not limited to, older, overweight men and affects significant percentages of women and children as well. If someone in your family has OSA, you will be more likely to have it also.
The serious and life-threatening problems start when sleepers begin experiencing apneas, where breathing stops, and hypopneas, where breathing is shallow due to an obstruction. Breathing is usually blocked in the back of the throat because:
- The tongue and muscles relax during sleep.
- The lower jaw falls back toward the throat.
- The airway becomes blocked.
The silence may end with a loud snort, cough or gasp. This causes the sleeper to wake briefly and begin breathing. Once asleep again, the muscles relax and the airway becomes blocked, cutting off the airway again. This cycle can occur hundreds of times throughout the night.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. It ranges in severity from mild to moderate, to severe.
Central Sleep Apnea is a rare sleep disorder that occurs when the brain fails to send the necessary information to the breathing muscles.
Mixed Sleep Apnea is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. It is not uncommon to experience all three disorders in one night.