The palate is the roof of the mouth. The front of the palate is the hard palate, and behind it is the soft palate, which extends back to the uvula (the fleshy, dangling protuberance at the back of the mouth. Using sleep videofluoroscopy to measure anatomical changes and polysomnography to identify apnea/hypoxia events, researchers found that the soft palate behaved very differently in sleep apnea sufferers than it did in simple snorers. Sleep apnea sufferers were more likely to see the soft palate expand backward during sleep. And this expansion was linked to instances of apnea and hypoxia.
The distinction between simple snorers and obstructive sleep apnea sufferers is a crucial part of delivering the right solution for those with sleep disordered breathing. Simple snoring is just a nuisance, but the dangers of sleep apnea make it a deadly condition that can dramatically reduce a person's life expectancy.