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Obstructive sleep apnea usually occurs when the throat muscles and tongue relax during sleep and partly or completely block the airway. When you stop breathing or have reduced flow of air into your lungs during sleep, the amount of oxygen in your blood decreases briefly.
Obstructive sleep apnea can also occur if you have enlarged tissues in your nose, mouth, or throat. For example, you may have enlarged tonsils. During the day when you are awake and are standing up, this may not cause problems. But when you lie down at night, the tonsils can press down on your airway, narrowing it and causing sleep apnea.
In children, a common cause of sleep apnea is large tonsils or adenoids.
Obstructive sleep apnea may occur if you have a facial bone deformity or a jaw problem.
You're more likely to have sleep apnea if you:
Fat in the neck area can press down on the tissues around the airways. This narrows the airways and can cause sleep apnea.
Use certain medicines.
Medicines such as sleeping pills and sedatives can relax the muscles and tissues in the throat, causing it to narrow.
Alcohol affects the part of the brain that controls breathing. This may relax the breathing muscles and cause narrowing of the airway.
Sleep on your back.
Sleeping on your back and using one or more pillows may make sleep apnea worse.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.