The most common form of the disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when the soft tissues in the back of the throat relax and obstruct the airway, interfering with breathing and causing the noisy vibrations associated with snoring. The result is daytime drowsiness, fatigue and symptoms that include a sore throat, dry mouth and headache. Snoring may disturb the sleep of your partner, resulting in tension and stress. Your productivity at work may suffer, and you might experience periods of confusion and memory loss.
Causes of sleep apnea include overly relaxed throat tissues and tongue; a large tongue, tonsils, uvula or soft palate; and an abnormally small airway. Natural aging can limit your brain’s ability to keep your throat muscles stiff while you sleep, causing the airway to narrow or collapse. Those most at risk are males, over the age of 40, overweight, smoke tobacco, suffer from allergies or sinus infections and/or have a family history of sleep apnea.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the preferred treatment method for those with moderate to severe sleep apnea. You’ll wear a mask over your mouth or nose attached to a machine that delivers steady bursts of air pressure into your throat, keeping your airway passages open while you sleep.