Types of Sleep Apnea

Types of Sleep Apnea and Other Disorders and How They Affect Your Life

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SleepQuest is a premier provider of diagnosis and treatment for patients suffering from sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. Our San Francisco Bay Area-based team provides one-on-one support for patients suffering from this serious condition. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, weight gain, and other serious health risks. We assist patients with diagnosis and treatment of the two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Both types cause patients to stop breathing for at least ten seconds and even minutes during the night, occurring up to hundreds of times every night. Although the two types of sleep apnea have similar symptoms, their causes are completely different. Contact us today for your assessment and find out which type of sleep apnea affects your rest.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea is by far the more common form of the disorder. During sleep, an OSA patient’s tongue, soft palate, and uvula fall onto the back of the throat, blocking the airway. This type of sleep apnea is classified as mild, moderate, or severe, with stoppages of breathing occurring more than thirty times per hour of sleep indicating severe OSA. As airflow becomes more obstructed, a patient’s blood oxygen levels will often decrease, signaling the brain to wake from sleep. A patient may not fully regain consciousness, with interruptions so brief that he or she may not even remember waking up. However, these repeated disruptions prevent a patient from ever reaching the deepest, rejuvenating levels of sleep.
Scientists are not sure what causes obstructive sleep apnea. Overweight, middle-aged males are most commonly affected by sleep apnea, but the disease also affects women and children of all ages and sizes. Some research suggests that sleeping on the back, smoking, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, a small jaw, and certain medications are associated with sleep apnea. There are two causes of OSA, one is redundant tissue in the upper airway and the other is an anatomically narrow airway.

Central (and Mixed) Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Central sleep apnea is far less common than OSA, but its effects are no less significant. This form of the disorder is a neurological problem in which the brain fails to signal the body to breathe during sleep. This may result in a complete pause of breathing or an irregular breathing pattern. The most common pattern associated with central sleep apnea is Cheyne-Stokes breathing, in which periods of hyper-breathing follow complete cessations of breath. At SleepQuest, our sleep experts have experience treating this type of disorder with a device that prevents the stoppage of breathing by automatically allowing the patient to resume proper breathing. These sophisticated devices are called non-invasive ventilators and can be used comfortably by a patient from their own home. Mixed sleep apnea is the rarest form of disordered breathing and starts as a central event that quickly turns into an obstructive event.

Complex Sleep Apnea

Complex sleep apnea is a relatively recent discovery in the field of sleep disordered breathing, with as many as 15% of sleep apnea patients suffering from this form of the disorder. These patients are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, however during treatment with a CPAP or Auto PAP device their breathing changes and they begin to produce central events that didn’t exist previously. These patients respond well to the same devices that treats central sleep apnea in the section above.

Other Sleep Disorders

Other sleep disorders include insomnia, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, periodic leg movement disorder, and upper airway resistance syndrome. Some of these disorders occur concurrently with sleep apnea treatment, and should be addressed as part of a patient's overall treatment plan.

About SleepQuest

"From my very first visit at SleepQuest, they offered friendly, prompt and professional service."Julie P.
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"Before, I met with a Sleep Care Specialist, I had felt so awful for so long. Now, I feel like a new person with renewed energy and hope. I can’t thank SleepQuest enough for all their help."Christie V.
"I choose SleepQuest because their Sleep Care Specialists are always friendly, patience, and helpful."Jin T.

Expert Guide to Sleep Apnea 

This guide to understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) was written by SleepQuest’s Chief Scientific Officer; William C. Dement, M.D., Ph.D.


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