The Three Types Of Sleep Apnea

Probably the most common sleeping disorder among adults is sleep apnea. The word “apnea” means “a temporary suspension of breathing during sleep”. In practice, persons who experience it have pauses in their breathing while they are asleep. These abnormal pauses last from just a few seconds to as much as a minute or more and can happen up to 30 times per hour. Sleep disorder symptoms can go on for years without being correctly identified.

Diagnosing the condition medically requires an overnight sleep study (known as a polysomnogram) performed in a medical setting. There are three classifications of sleep apnea that may be diagnosed:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This is the most commonly diagnosed type. It is caused by a momentary collapse of the airway which is composed of naturally soft tissue. It is most common in men and becomes more frequent with age.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): This type occurs when the respiratory control center is not in balance when asleep. The neurological systems that monitor breathing cease to react quickly enough to keep a regular breathing rhythm. With CSA, the individual simply stops breathing and then starts again. During the pause there are no chest movements and no signs of distress. This condition is also known as “Cheyne-Stokes respiration”.

Complex/Mixed Sleep Apnea: As the name implies this is a combination of both OSA and CSA. Most frequently, complex/mixed sleep apnea develops in individuals who have severe OSA for a long period of time. Exactly how severe OSA can induce CSA is not yet known, but research is ongoing.

Regardless of the specific type of disorder observed, if left untreated, it can become very detrimental to your overall health and even become a cause of other, more serious diseases. If you suspect that you, or a loved one, may have an one of these three conditions, it is important that you seek medical advice.