What is the cycle of obstructive sleep apnea?

What is the cycle of obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea causes the sufferer to experience breathing disruptions during sleep. Here’s a little about how the obstructive sleep apnea cycle works.


The narrowest part of the breathing pathway is at the back of the throat. When you breathe, air travels down your throat, then through your windpipe and into your lungs. This is true regardless of whether you're awake or asleep. 

While you're awake muscles keep this pathway open, but when you’re asleep those same muscles relax, causing the opening to narrow. When air passes through this narrowed opening it can cause the throat to vibrate. This vibration is the snoring which many people experience.

For sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea the pathway narrows even further, and not enough air can get through to the lungs. When that happens the brain sounds an alarm to get the airway open, and the person will usually wake up briefly. The brain then reactivates the muscles that hold the airway open, air can travel through freely once more, and the brain returns to sleep.

When this process is repeated frequently throughout the night, it can result in a pattern of interrupted sleep, as well as a lack of oxygen flow. These issues can result in a range of physical and mental health problems.

If this sounds familiar, you or your loved one may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. Contact our Surrey dentist today to book a consultation.

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