Hyperventilation Connection to Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

For almost everyone with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), there is a history of snoring or mouth-breathing during sleep. The connection between hyperventilation and snoring has been explained in the snoring section.

Once it is understood how hyperventilation results in snoring, the next step is to understand why the throat collapses.

Imagine that you are drinking a milk shake that hasn’t been blended properly and there is still some ice cream at the bottom of the glass. You get the end of the straw stuck in the ice cream and while you suck softly you can continue to drink, but as soon as you suck more vigorously the straw collapses. This is because the air pressure in the straw gets a little lower between your mouth and the ice cream due to the stronger sucking action, and ordinary atmospheric air pressure that is constantly pushing on the straw makes it collapse. You cannot drink any more milk until you stop sucking and let the straw regain its shape.

This is a similar situation to OSA. The airways, running from the tip of your nose down to the air sacs or alveoli in your lungs are like straws. They are simply conduits that connect the air in these two places so that gas exchange can take place. Air moves into the lungs because the air pressure here drops lower than the atmosphere when the lungs are stretched by the breathing muscles.

In OSA, the airway becomes narrowed or obstructed above (i.e. closer to the tip of the nose) the part of the airway that collapses, and it is this obstruction that causes the problem.

The airways narrow because the vigorous breathing of snoring and mouth-breathing, brings extra cold, dry air into the airways and at the same time causes an excessive loss of carbon dioxide.

Because of the narrowed airways, it is harder to inhale sufficient air and so the breathing muscles have to work a bit harder, stretching the lungs more than usual, and dropping the air pressure slightly more in the part of the airway that is below the obstruction (i.e. closer to the alveoli).

Even though atmospheric air pressure pushes on us all day and night, we are normally able to resist it. But because the muscles in the throat are very relaxed during sleep, they are more easily affected by this pressure than when we are awake. And so due to the slightly lower air pressure below the obstructed part, the airway is collapsed by ordinary room air pressure, in the same kind of way that the straw collapses when you suck too hard in the milk shake.

Because it isn’t really a matter of having too much fat in your airways, the throat bounces back into shape just as soon as you stop inhaling, and lets you take the next breath, just like the straw lets you take another drink once you stop sucking.

Another factor of OSA that is caused by hyperventilation is the excessive loss of carbon dioxide that is caused by the snoring. If the concentration of carbon dioxide gets too low, then the breathing will cease until the concentration rises to sufficient levels once more.

By changing your breathing pattern with the Buteyko Method so that the breathing is more suitable for the low metabolism of sleep will

Stop you from cooling and drying your airways excessively. This will prevent the aiways from becoming excessively narrowed, and so they will not have to collapse.
Stop you from snoring, which will stop you from losing too much carbon dioxide. This will prevent the brain from needing to cease breathing in order to build up this necessary gas again.