Sleep Apnea is a partial or complete blockage of a person’s airway that occurs while they are in a state of deep sleep. The blockage is usually caused by (one or several) relaxed throat muscles, a large tongue, a narrow airway, or extra tissue in the neck area, which relaxes to the point that it droops into the airway. Because the airway is momentarily blocked, the person experiences short pauses in their breathing rhythm. These pauses in breathing are called apneas and they happen several times during the night – generally getting longer and/or more frequent as the night goes on.
Apneas generally last 10-to-30 seconds, depending on how your body reacts to not getting air into its lungs. Since you’re essentially not breathing for various lengths of time during the night, your oxygen level drops down, alerting your brain to cough, gag or snort to clear the blockage. In the process of clearing the blockage, a person will wake up or come out of their deepest form of sleep – Third Level, Non Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (NREM 3). By not getting enough NREM3 sleep, a person’s overall health is affected, usually leaving them tired and at greater risk of illnesses and other conditions.