Snoring is caused when the jaw opens and the tongue falls into the back of the throat, causing the airway to narrow and forcing air through the small opening. This creates vibrations in the throat known as snoring. Although snoring seems physically harmless, it can be a warning sign of a more serious and dangerous condition called obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway completely collapses, blocking airflow to the lungs. The harder one tries to breathe, the tighter the airway seals. This airway obstruction persists until the brain partially awakens the person, unconsciously closing the jaw and returning the tongue and throat to a normal position. This process can occur 50 or more times per hour while asleep, and meanwhile not enough oxygen is being received by the body.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause: memory problems, high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, decreased life expectancy, weight gain, depression or irritability, difficulty concentrating, impotency, headaches, and daytime fatigue.