The Elgin Corners Dental Blog

What is the cycle of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

What is the cycle of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

(OSA), Obstructive sleep apnea causes disruptions in breathing while sufferers are sleeping. Here’s more from our Surrey dentist on how the obstructive sleep apnea cycle works.


Whether you’re asleep or awake, when you breathe, air travels down your throat, through your windpipe and into your lungs. For everyone, the narrowest part of this pathway is at the back of the throat.

While awake your muscles keep this pathway open. When you're sleeping those muscles relax, and that causes the opening to narrow. Sometimes the throat will vibrate when the air passes through the narrowed opening; this is snoring, which many people experience.

If the pathway narrows too much, not enough air can get through to the lungs. If the brain detects that the lungs are not getting enough oxygen it sounds the alarm to get the airway open. At that point the person will usually wake up very briefly. Once the person is awake, the brain reactivates the muscles which hold the airway open, the air is then able to travel freely again, and the brain goes back to sleep. This is the cycle of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

When this process is repeated frequently throughout the night it results in inadequate and poor quality sleep, as well as a notable lack of oxygen flow. These issues can result in a variety of mental and physical health problems.

If you think that you may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. Contact our Surrey dentists today to book a consultation.

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