Obstructive sleep apnea, also known is OSA, causes disruptions in breathing during sleep. Here’s more from our Delta dentist on how the obstructive sleep apnea cycle works.
Whether you're awake or asleep, when you breathe the air travels down your throat, through your windpipe, and finally into your lungs. The back of the throat is the narrowest part of this pathway.
While you're awake your muscles keep this pathway open, but when you’re sleeping the opening narrows as those muscles relax. When the air passes through the narrowed opening a vibration is often caused. This vibrations is what we recognize as snoring.
Many people experience snoring caused by the narrowing of this airway but not all people who snore have sleep apnea.
For those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the airway narrows to the point where not enough air can get through to the lungs. Once the brain recognises that not enough air is reaching the lungs it 'sounds the alarm' to the get the airway open. When that happens, the person briefly wakes up. Once the person wakes, the brain reactivates the muscles that hold the airway open, air freely travels through again, and the brain goes back to sleep.
This process is repeated frequently throughout the night, meaning that people with obstructive sleep apnea get a lot of interrupted sleep, and a repeated lack of oxygen flow. The overall result of these issue recurring night after night can be a variety of physical and mental health problems.