Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by a blockage of the airway during sleep. The most common form of OSA occurs when soft tissues in the throat relax and narrow, causing partial obstruction of airflow. This leads to frequent pauses in breathing that disrupt sleep and cause excessive daytime fatigue and other symptoms. Some of the most common causes of OSA include:
An airway that is too narrow
Narrowing of the airway is a common cause of obstructive sleep apnea. The following factors can contribute to this problem:
- Breathing through the mouth
- Narrowed airway due to the tongue
- Narrowed airway due to the soft palate (the tissue in your throat that connects your mouth and nose)
- Narrowed airway due to the uvula (the small piece of flesh at the back of your throat)
Obesity is a major risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea. In fact, studies have shown that anywhere from 60% to 70% of patients with sleep apnea are obese.
Obesity can cause your airway to collapse during the night and block your breathing, which makes it more difficult to breathe while asleep. Obesity is also one of the most common causes of sleep apnea in adults. It’s important to understand that obesity is not just an aesthetic problem—it can also cause other health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Smoking and drinking alcohol
Smoking and alcohol can also be risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea. Smoking has been shown to increase the risk for obstructive sleep apnea by about 50% compared with non-smokers. Alcohol is also a risk factor, as it can contribute to snoring and weight gain, which are both associated with sleep apnea. Drinking alcohol can relax your throat muscles and cause you to snore more than usual (or at all), which may lead to more episodes of sleep apnea. Also, if you drink alcohol before bedtime regularly, it’s likely that you will not get enough sleep overall—and that means less time breathing properly!
Sleeping on your back
Sleeping on your back is one of the most common causes of obstructive sleep apnea. If you’re the kind of sleeper who can’t fall asleep unless you’re lying flat on your back, this may be an issue for you. If that’s the case, try sleeping with a pillow under your knees or sitting up in bed while reading before bedtime. These tips will help keep the airways open as you sleep and prevent snoring as well as obstructive sleep apnea.
Aging can cause the muscles of your throat to become less elastic and stiffer, which allows tissues in your airway to collapse. As you age, the bones of your neck and face tend to lose mass, which may affect how well they support the structures around them.
A decrease in immune system function can increase inflammation throughout the body and make it harder for your body to fight off infections that could lead to OSA symptoms (such as sinusitis or tonsillitis).
Contact Marx Sleep for Sleep Apnea Treatment
If you think that you or someone else is suffering from this condition, there are some simple steps to follow, contact Marx Sleep to learn more about the treatment options available.