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What are the 3 Types of Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious condition in which a person stops breathing in their sleep. This disorder is responsible for a range of symptoms including snoring, daytime fatigue, headaches, moodiness and a dry mouth upon waking. There are 3 types of sleep apnea, all with different causes (and different solutions).

Obtrusive Sleep Apnea (OSA) 

The most common type of sleep apnea, obtrusive sleep apnea, is caused by the throat becoming blocked during sleep. As a person with obstructive sleep apnea sleeps, the muscles in their mouth relax, and the tongue and soft palate collapse into the throat. This essentially blocks the airway. Obstructive sleep apnea causes snoring as air moves past the soft palate and tongue. Obstructive sleep apnea is common in back sleepers, those who are overweight and pregnant people. Aside from snoring, symptoms include headaches, dry mouth upon waking and feeling tired after a night’s sleep. Treatment aims to correct the physical blockage during sleep or prevent it from happening at all.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) 

While obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a physical blockage, central sleep apnea has a neurological cause. The brain stops sending continuous messages to the body to breathe, so breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, snoring is not a symptom since there is not a blockage of the throat. Symptoms of central sleep apnea can include daytime exhaustion, waking up gasping for breath or insomnia. The underlying causes of sleep apnea range from use of sedative drugs to heart failure. Central sleep apnea can be seen as a symptom of another medical issue, so treating the underlying medical condition often alleviates CSA.

Complex Sleep Apnea 

Complex sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. With complex sleep apnea, there are both physical and neurological factors preventing proper breathing during sleep. A physical blockage is present, but correcting it does not fully treat the sleep apnea. Complex sleep apnea can be identified through a sleep study, but treatment options will vary based on the individual.

No matter the type, sleep apnea is both a medical and a quality-of-life issue. If you are concerned you are being impacted by sleep apnea, call our offices at (602) 956-1250 to schedule an appointment with one of our expert physicians. Relief is possible!