The underlying cause of sleep apnea is airway obstruction. This obstruction occurs when soft tissue in the oral cavity collapses into the airway. Those who have large necks and bulky throat tissue tend to have increased risks for developing sleep apnea. Other contributing factors to developing OSA include weight gain, alcohol/sedative use at night, and smoking.
Some congenital and developmental abnormalities can affect airway health, which might require surgical or orthodontic intervention to correct. Many people, however, can find effective relief from OSA with oral appliance therapy.
Sleep apnea can be difficult to diagnose; this is why sleep studies are necessary to confirm whether apneas occur during rest. Typical symptoms of OSA include: