Generally, patients will experience sleep apnea when they are sleeping on their back. During their sleep, the throat muscles relax, and the lower jaw of the patient falls backward. This ends up closing off the airway and causes trouble breathing. While for most people the muscles are strong enough to avoid this happening, for others this isn’t the case.
The brain of a sleep apnea sufferer will realize breathing has stopped and will send messages to the body to cough. Over time, the drops in oxygen levels can lead to long-term cell damage.