standard-title Causes of Sleep Apnea

Causes of Sleep Apnea

What are the Causes of Sleep Apnea?

The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by a blockage of the breathing passage or a collapsed airway. With a blocked airway, it is difficult to breathe—keeping air from traveling freely.

When you’re awake, throat muscles help keep your airway stiff and open so air can flow into your lungs. When you sleep, these muscles relax, which narrows your throat. Normally, this narrowing of your throat doesn’t prevent air from flowing into and out of your lungs. However, if you have sleep apnea, your airway can become partially or fully blocked because of the following reasons:

  • Your throat muscles and tongue relax more than normal.
  • Your tongue and tonsils are large compared to the opening into your windpipe.
  • You’re overweight.
  • The shape of your head and neck may cause a smaller airway size in the mouth and throat area.
  • The aging process limits your brain signals’ ability to keep your throat muscles stiff during sleep.

As a result, not enough air flows into your lungs if your airway is partially or fully blocked during sleep. In the end, you or your loved one will experience loud snoring and a drop in your blood oxygen level.

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Groups at Risk for Sleep Apnea

Have you ever wondered if you are at risk or might have sleep apnea? Well, now you are in luck. While we are always searching to provide you with up-to-date information on our website, we want to also make sure you get the information you need to take charge of your health.

As you know, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the breathing pathways through the mouth, nose or throat are collapsed or blocked. These airways are susceptible to blockages or collapse as the muscle tone lining these pathways relax during sleep.

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Who is at Risk?

Overweight individuals are the most at risk for experiencing sleep apnea due to excess tissue, which may place pressure on the airway. More than half of those with sleep apnea are classified as overweight—an issue we need to tackle. Your risk for developing sleep apnea significantly increases with increased weight, age and those with diabetes, as well as smokers.

You may also be susceptible to sleep apnea if you have a constricted shape or small size of features in the nose, mouth or throat. Allergies and other medical conditions can also cause features along the airway to restrict the flow of oxygen. On the other hand, sleep apnea is often more common in men than women. It is also more common among African Americans, Hispanics and Pacific Islanders than Caucasians. Sleep apnea can also occur during pregnancy and following menopause.

 

Contact Craniofacial Pain & Dental Sleep Center of Georgia for more information and to find out if you have sleep apnea.