Sleep Disorders

31 August 2018

What causes sleep apnoea?

For the majority of adults with obstructive sleep apnoea, the cause is the same. Learn more.

In the vast majority of adults with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), the airway collapses due to an innate weakness in the tissues comprising the upper airway.

In a significant minority of adults with OSA, a physical anatomical anomaly is found to be blocking the windpipe – the tongue, the tonsils or the uvula (the little piece of flesh at the very back of the throat). The most common cause in these adults is a collapse of the tongue backwards into the airway.

Reviewed by Dr Irshaad Ebrahim, specialist neuropsychiatrist in sleep disorders at The London Sleep Centre and The Constantia Sleep Centre. FRCPsych. April 2018.


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Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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