When you have obstructive sleep apnea, your throat collapses during sleep, blocking the airway and preventing air from getting to the lungs. Generally, your throat muscles keep the throat and airway open. The site of obstruction in most patients is the soft palate, extending to the region at the base of the tongue. There are no rigid structures, such as cartilage or bone, in this area to hold the airway open. During the day, muscles in the region keep the passage wide open. But as a person with OSA falls asleep, these muscles relax to a point where the airway collapses and becomes obstructed.
Causes and risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea:
- Being overweight or obese
- Large tonsils or adenoids
- Distinctive physical attributes- deviated septum, shape of head and neck, receding chin or enlarged tongue
- Nasal congestion or blockage
- Throat muscles and tongue relax more than normal during sleep
In adults, the most typical individual with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome suffers from a decrease in muscle tone causing airway collapse and sleep apnea.
Excessive weight is also a cause for OSA in adults and children which results in symptoms of restlessness, exhaustion and forgetfulness.
Unlike adults, obstructive sleep apnea in children can be caused by obstructive tonsils and andenoids. This may be cured with surgery (tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy) though a full evaluation is necessary to confirm the root cause of the sleep disorder. A non-invasive treatment plan could prove more productive and provide better long-term results.