Obstructive sleep apnea causes a cycle of breathing disruptions during sleep. Here’s a little about how the obstructive sleep apnea cycle works.
Whether you're asleep or awake, when you breathe air travels down your throat, through your windpipe and into your lungs. The narrowest part of that pathway is located at the back of your throat.
Muscles keep this pathway open when you're awake, but when you’re sleeping, those muscles relax, and the opening narrows. The air passing through this narrowed opening might cause the throat to vibrate. This vibration is snoring, which many people experience.
For some people, however, the pathway narrows considerably and not enough air can get through to the lungs. When this happens, the brain sounds the alarm to get the airway open, and the person briefly wakes up. Once the person wakes the brain reactivates the muscles that hold the airway open, air can travel through freely again, and the brain goes back to sleep. This describes the obstructive sleep apnea cycle.
When this process is repeated frequently throughout the night, it can result in a lot of frequently interrupted sleep, and a lack of oxygen flow, too. These issues can result in a variety of physical and mental health problems.