A large tongue does not necessarily cause sleep apnea, but many patients with sleep apnea have large tongue bases, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. The tongue of a patient with sleep apnea may fall back and touch the pharynx during deep sleep, causing an obstruction of the airway.
Repositioning of the hyoid bone, which is a bone in the neck where the pharynx and the tongue base connect, helps alleviate the problem, notes the American Sleep Apnea Association. The procedure, which is minimally invasive, prevents collapse and expands the airway to reduce or eliminate symptoms of sleep apnea. The outpatient procedure takes less than an hour to complete.