Keeping the air passages open during sleep is critical to normal breathing. As you breathe, air passes through the nose and mouth and inward into your lungs, moving past the following structures in the nose, mouth, and throat:
- Soft palate: Soft curtain of tissue which is an extension of the palate at the back of the throat. This palatal tissue blocks the opening between the mouth and nose during swallowing.
- Uvula: Floppy finger-like projection of tissue that hangs from the middle of the soft palate.
- Tonsils: Sack-like structures along the side walls at the back of the throat. These tissues are part of the body's immune system.
- Tongue: Large muscle at the floor of the mouth that is important for taste, speech, chewing, and swallowing.
While you are awake, those structures actively maintain an open air passage so you can breathe easily. During sleep, these structures relax. For non-snorers, the airway stays clear so air can move easily into the lungs. But for snorers, this is not the case, and it can have a significant impact on their sleep.