Perfection impedes achievement

What is Sleep Apnea

As discussed here, I suffer from sleep apnea but wanted to avoid having to resort to CPAP or surgery for treatment. So I developed my own treatment. Before discussing the treatment, I would like to cover my understanding of sleep apnea.

First 2 disclaimers:

  1. I am not a doctor. I am not a health professional. I can’t even say that I did a lot of research into sleep apnea. The following description of sleep apnea came from my observations when experimenting with sleeping techniques.
  2. This is not a mainstream/conventional understanding of what sleep apnea is. If you are new to sleep apnea, I recommend you investigate mainstream treatments of sleep apnea first.

Most websites describe sleep apnea as a throat condition. The Victorian Government Better Health website describes it as follows:

Sleep apnoea occurs when the walls of the throat come together during sleep, blocking off the airway above the voice box.

My understanding of sleep apnea differs in 2 ways:

  1. Acute sleep apnea is largely a back problem.
  2. You can suffer from sleep apnea at any time - not just when you are asleep.

For mild cases of sleep apnea, only the throat is affected. That is why initially a mouth appliance is an effective treatment. However the sleep apnea condition can worsen and spread down your back. Let’s call this acute sleep apnea. When this occurs, the mouth appliance by itself is no longer effective.

So what happens when it spreads down into your back?

I believe that back muscles become overly relaxed and inactive - let’s say they fall to sleep - and they no longer keep muscles/bones/organs clear of the air passage way into your lungs. Accordingly the the passageway becomes constricted and air flow into your lung is also reduced. If the muscles in your lower back fall to ‘sleep’, then it seems that your diaphram no longer functions effectively and restricts the ability of your lungs to expand and deflate.1 Accordingly, your breathing no longer provides you with all the oxygen you need.

Once you suffer from acute sleep apnea, a mouth appliance will prevent your throat from restricting air flow but no matter how much you adjust it, it cannot prevent the ‘sleeping’ back muscles from constricting the airflow as it proceeds down to your lungs.

The condition can also affect you when you are awake. If it occurs when we are awake, our mind unconsciously compensates by activating muscles in other ways to keep air passage ways unconstricted and ensure your lungs expand and contract as necessary. However when you are asleep, for some reason, the mind does not compensate when this condition occurs. So your passageways get constricted and your lungs no longer function effectively. This leads to sleep apnea accompanied by loud snorting and raspy breathing.

You can actually easily detect for sleep apnea during the day. Simply stand still, relax and breath. If your throat or air passage in your back is constricted, your breathing will be raspy (that is, like you are snoring) . You can then even check where in your back or your throat the air passageway is constricted. Use your muscles to ‘expand’ a part of chest, back or throat. If that reduces the rasping in your breathing, then you know that part of the air passageway is constricted. Controlling your muscles in this way may not be easy at first. However it can be done with a bit of practise. It is also the key to my treatment for sleep apnea.

Now that I have covered my understanding sleep apnea, let’s move onto how I deal with it.


  1. Note this hypothesis has not been scientificly tested. It is just a theory from observations [return]