When you have obstructive sleep apnea, your breathing repeatedly stops while you sleep. Patients with a mild case stop breathing 5-15 times every hour. However, you can stop breathing 30 times or more per hour if your sleep apnea is severe.
When you go to sleep, the soft tissues in your mouth and throat relax. As a result, your tongue slides toward the back of your throat, where it can cover the airway and prevent you from breathing.
The rapid drop in oxygen alerts your brain, which nudges you awake just enough to start breathing again.
Children with sleep apnea often have enlarged tonsils and adenoids that block the airway. Nasal polyps or other nasal obstructions can also lead to sleep apnea.