What is the cycle of obstructive sleep apnea?

Posted Jun 7th, 2019

What is the cycle of obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) causes disruptions in the sufferer's breathing during sleep. Here’s a little more about how the obstructive sleep apnea cycle works.


Whether you’re awake or asleep, when you breathe air travels down your throat, through your windpipe and into your lungs. For everyone, the narrowest part of that pathway is at the back of your throat.

Muscles keep this pathway open during waking hours, but when you’re sleeping the opening narrows as your muscles relax. When the air passes through this narrowed opening it can cause the throat to vibrate. This vibration is snoring, which is experienced by many people.

However, in people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea the pathway narrows to the point where not enough air can get through to the lungs. When the lungs don't get enough air the brain sounds an alarm to get the airway to open again. When this happens the person will generally wake up briefly. At this point the brain reactivates the muscles that hold the airway open, air can travel through freely again, and the brain returns to sleep.

When this process occurs repeatedly throughout the night, it can result in a lot of interrupted sleep, as well as a lack of oxygen flow. Obstructive sleep apnea can result in a variety of physical and mental health problems.

If you think that you may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. Contact our Surrey dentists today to book a consultation.

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