When snoring is interrupted by episodes of totally obstructed breathing, it is known as obstructive sleep apnoea. The obstruction is caused by the relaxation of muscles that support the soft tissues at the back of the throat such as the uvula, soft palate, tongue and tonsils. These tissues then collapse and momentarily block the airway.
Episodes may last 20 seconds or more and may occur hundreds of times per night. While you are not breathing, the levels of oxygen in your blood drop which causes your blood pressure to go up and adds strain to your cardiovascular system. In addition, you are likely to feel overly tired during the day and your work, driving and overall performance may be affected.
The usual treatment for OSA is to wear a nasal mask that delivers pressurised air to keep the airways open while you sleep. This treatment is known as Continuous Positive Airway pressure (CPAP).
There are also operative procedures which can help to make using the CPAP machine easier. Alternatively, for those people who find difficulty in effectively using a CPAP machine, some operative procedures are also used.