Snoring and Sleep Dictionary

Below are some of the words and definitions commonly associated with the study of sleep, sleep apnea and snoring relief.

Alveoli: Small sac-like structures located at the end of the bronchioles where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide from the blood takes place.

Anemnesis: The case history of a patient.

Apnea: The cessation of breathing that may occur during sleep.

Bronchi: The airways that connect the windpipe (trachea) to the lungs.Bronchioles: The smaller airways in the lungs.

Bruxism: A clenching or grinding of the teeth usually during sleep. Bruxism may be associated with OSA (obstructive sleep apnea).

CPAP: A commonly used abbreviation for continuous positive airway pressure, which is used to relieve the obstruction in the oropharynx in patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

Diaphragm: The muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdomen. It is the main provider of inspiratory force by expanding the size of the chest cavity. The diaphragm also lowers the pressure in the conducting airways in the lungs and up through the trachea to the oropharynx to below the atmospheric level so that air from the outside can be pushed in.

Hypoxemia: The technical term for low blood oxygen content, which may occur if air cannot get into the lungs because of a blockage in the upper airway as in an event of OSA. Hypox refers to “low levels of oxygen” and emia means “in the blood.”

Insomnia: A condition in which the person complains of difficulty falling asleep or problems staying asleep.

Larynx: The organ of voice production located in the upper part of the respiratory system between the pharynx and the trachea. It includes the vocal cords.

Laser: A device that produces a beam of high-energy light that can be used to shrink or burn tissue during a surgical procedure, such as reduction of the size of the uvula and soft palate.

Lungs: The main part of the respiratory system that takes oxygen from the air into the bloodstream and allows carbon dioxide to escape from the body.

Mandible: The technical term for the jawbone or lower jaw.

Mandibular Advancement: This term refers to the non-invasive treatment of snoring and OSA, using a device which moves the lower jaw position forward. Advancing the jaw in this manner allows the airway to open, preventing the vibration of soft tissues at the back of the throat.

Maxilla: The upper jaw, or a major bone or cartilage of the upper jaw.

MRI: A commonly used abbreviation for magnetic resonance imaging, which does not involve the use of radiation as in X rays.
Mucous membrane: a soft, pink, skin-like structure that lines many cavities and tubes in the body, such as the respiratory tract. The mucous membrane secretes a fluid containing mucus.

Mucus: A thick, slippery secretion produced by the mucous membrane that helps to lubricate and protect parts of the body such as the respiratory tract.

Obesity: A condition in which a person is more than 20 percent overweight.

Oropharynx: The area extending from the level of the palate to the entrance of the larynx at the vocal cords. It is the collapsible region responsible for snoring and OSA.

OSA: A commonly used abbreviation for obstructive sleep apnea.

OSA.CT: A commonly used abbreviation for computerized tomography, which is a special type of X-ray imaging technique for getting detailed information about the anatomy in a particular part of the body.

Oximeter: A device worn on the finger or earlobe that can measure levels of oxygen in the blood painlessly. It is one of the measurements made during a sleep study to assess the severity of OSA.

Oxygen: An odorless, colorless gas that makes up 21 percent of the atmosphere of the Earth. Oxygen is necessary for most forms of life and is absorbed through the lungs into the blood.

Palate: The roof of the mouth made up of a hard bony part and a soft muscular part. The soft part has an extension called the uvula.

Pharynx: A technical term for the upper part of the throat at the base or back of the tongue.

Polysomnography: A technical term for a sleep study that involves recording brain waves for assessing the quality of sleep, airflow at the nose and mouth.

Pulmonary Hypertension: A term a doctor may use when talking about high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery. This occurs when oxygen levels in the alveoli in the lungs are low because of lung disease or because fresh air does not get into the lungs due to a blockage in the oropharynx caused by OSA.

Rhinitis: The technical term used for a runny or congested nose.

Snoring: The noise produced by vibration of the soft palate and uvula.

Sleep Apnea: Cessation of breathing that occurs during sleep. Usually due to obstruction of the airway, it can also be due to inability of the brain to initiate respiration.

Sleep Cycle: The usual pattern of arrangement of the stages of sleep in a normal person.

Sleep Talking: Any speaking during sleep—it may be complete sentences but more often only phrases or single words.

Sleepwalking: Any complex physical action, such as walking, that occurs with the sleeper only partially awake and in a trance-like state.

Somnambulism: Same as sleep walking.

Tongue: Large muscle at the floor of the mouth.

Tonsils: Structures located on both sides of the oropharynx that may cause narrowing of the airway if enlarged.

Trachea: The main airway that divides into large bronchial tubes going to each lung.

Uvula: A cone-shaped projection hanging down from the soft palate in the oropharynx. The uvula may become swollen and enlarged in people who snore.