When you breathe air travels through your nose, down the throat through the windpipe and into your lungs. The narrowest part of that pathway is in the back of your throat. When you are awake, muscles keep that pathway relatively wide open but when you sleep those muscles relax causing the opening to narrow. The air passing through this narrow opening may cause the soft pallet to vibrate which causes snoring. In some people, the throat closes so much that enough air cannot get through to the lungs. When this happens the brain sends an alarm to open the airway and most often this is associated with a brief arousal from sleep. The brain quickly reactivates the muscles that hold the throat open, air gets through again and the brain goes back to sleep. This sleep disorder is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Obstructive Sleep Apnea, sometimes called apnea sleep disorder, is prevalent in as many as an estimated 18 million Americans. That is, approximately one in every 15 Americans has a case of sleep apnea. An estimated 10 million Americans have undiagnosed sleep apnea.
Click here to take a brief sleep test that could help you identify if you may be experiencing sleep apnea.