Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) causes disruptions in breathing during sleep. Here’s a little about how the OSA cycle works.
Whether you’re awake or asleep, when you breathe, air travels down your throat then through your windpipe and into your lungs. The back of your throat is the narrowest section of that pathway.
While you're awake your muscles keep this pathway open, but when you’re sleeping those muscles relax which causes the opening to narrow. The air passing through this narrowed opening can cause the throat to vibrate. That vibration is the snoring, which many people experience.
In some people the pathway narrows to the point where not enough air can get through to the lungs. When this happens, the brain sounds the alarm to get the airway open, which in turn causes the person to briefly wake up. When awake the brain reactivates the muscles that hold the airway open, air travels through freely again, and the brain goes back to sleep. This is how obstructive sleep apnea works.
As you can imagine, when this process happens repeatedly throughout the night, it can result in a lot of interrupted sleep as well as a lack of oxygen flow. Lack of sleep and oxygen flow can in turn result in a variety of physical and mental health problems.