When you breathe normally, air makes its way to your lungs by passing through your mouth, over your tongue, and past your soft palate, uvula, and tonsils.
Sleep apnea is a common disorder where you have at least one pause in breathing or have shallow breathing as you sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes. They happen as many as 30 times or more each hour, reports the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. It’s estimated that over 12 million Americans of all ages suffer from apnea, according to the University of Washington in Seattle.