Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a problem in which your breathing pauses during sleep. This occurs because of narrowed or blocked airways.
Sleep apnea - obstructive - adults; Apnea - obstructive sleep apnea syndrome - adults; Sleep-disordered breathing - adults; OSA - adults
When you sleep, all of the muscles in your body become more relaxed. This includes the muscles that help keep your throat open so air can flow into your lungs.
Normally, your throat remains open enough during sleep to let air pass by. Some people have a narrow throat. When the muscles in their upper throat relax during sleep, the tissues close in and block the airway. This stop in breathing is called apnea.
Loud snoring is a telltale symptom of OSA. Snoring is caused by air squeezing through the narrowed or blocked airway. Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea though.
Other factors also may increase your risk:
- A lower jaw that is short compared to your upper jaw
- Certain shapes of the roof of your mouth (palate) or airway that cause it to collapse more easily
- Large neck or collar size, 17 inches (43 centimeters) or more in men and 16 inches (41 centimeters) or more in women
- Large tongue, which may fall back and block the airway
- Large tonsils and adenoids that can block the airway
Sleeping on your back can also cause your airway to become blocked or narrowed.