The Three Types Of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing, during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from a few seconds to minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. Similarly, each abnormally low breathing event is called a hypopnea. The diagnosis of sleep apnea is based on the evaluation of clinical symptoms (e.g. excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue) and the results of a formal sleep study – polysomnography. The three types/categories of sleep apnea and their prevalence are:

1. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) .4%

2. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) 84%

3. Mixed Sleep Apnea (both central sleep apnea & obstructive sleep apnea) 15%

During sleep, the brain instructs the muscles of breathing to take a breath. The differences between the different types/categories of sleep apnea are:

  • Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when the brain does not send the signal to the muscles to take a breath, and there is no muscular effort to take a breath.

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the brain sends the signal to the muscles and the muscles make an effort to take a breath, but they are unsuccessful because the airway becomes obstructed and prevents an adequate flow of air. 

  • Mixed sleep apnea, occurs when there is both central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.

Regardless of type, an individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. Sleep apnea is recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected because of its effects on the body. Symptoms may be present for many without identification, during which time the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance.

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • EDS (Excessive Daytime Sleepiness)
  • Impaired alertness
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Slower reaction time
  • Disturbances in vision
  • Moodiness
  • Belligerence
  • Decrease in attentiveness and drive
  • GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease)
  • Nocturnal Reflux/Heartburn
  • Development of depression
  • Difficulty with memory and learning
  • Difficulty in paying attention, working effectively and processing information when in a waking state
  • Finally, because there are many factors that could lead to some of the effects previously listed, some patients are not aware that they suffer from sleep apnea and are either misdiagnosed, or just ignore the symptoms altogether

Additionally, more than 80 million North Americans snore. Snoring during sleep may be a sign, or first alarm, of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). So – Don’t Ignore The Snore! But an important point is, that while all people who have sleep apnea snore, not all people who snore have sleep apnea.

  • 50 to 80 percent of snorers have sleep apnea
  • Over 30 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea
  • An estimated 10 million Americans remain undiagnosed
  • Over 50% of all apnea cases are diagnosed in people aged 40 and over
  • More prevalent in men than women
  • 4 to 9% of middle-aged men suffer from apnea
  • 2 to 4% of middle-aged women suffer from apnea

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