The 3 Types of Sleep Apnea

Posted on: 17 March 2020

Did you know that approximately 22 million people in the United States have sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a medical condition where individuals stop breathing while they are sleeping. Amazingly, many Americans are unaware that they have this disorder since they stop and start breathing without waking up.

Sleep apnea doctors can conduct sleep studies that can determine whether or not you have this condition. Fortunately, there are many symptoms that could help you to realize if sleep apnea is something you may be dealing with. These include but are not limited to: snoring, waking up frequently, waking up gasping, frequent headaches, being excessively sleepy during the day, or the inability to focus while awake.

There are three main causes of sleep apnea:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is when something blocks your airway, which makes you stop breathing. This is not talking about being smothered by your pillow, or accidentally swallowing food while you sleep, but parts of your body could actually be blocking your breathing. For example, in some people, their tongue actually falls into the back of their throat and stops their breathing. For others, their soft palate may collapse, causing their airway to close. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device can fix this problem by pushing oxygen into the airway, keeping it open.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea is basically when the body forgets to breathe. This is a more challenging case of sleep apnea since the brain is not signaling the body to continue breathing while the individual is asleep. A CPAP device can help, though some slight modifications may make it more efficient for this type of apnea. For example, an unventilated CPAP mask could increase the carbon dioxide level in the body (not to a dangerous level) which could signal the brain to improve breathing in the body.

Complex Sleep Apnea

Complex sleep apnea is when both central and obstructive sleep apnea is present. This is usually discovered after obstructive sleep apnea has been diagnosed and treated. CPAP treatment will not be effective since the body will still forget to breathe. In a final effort to get the lungs to take in oxygen, the brain will wake the body up. Unfortunately for complex sleep apnea patients, this may happen over a hundred times a night, causing a horrible night's sleep. 

In conclusion, if you have some symptoms of sleep apnea, you should talk to your doctor about further testing.