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Types of Sleep Apnea

Characterized by uneven patterns of breathing during slumber, sleep apnea is a serious condition that can lead to medical problems. Patients with sleep apnea experience interrupted breathing, during which their supply of air might be partially or completely cut off. At the most serious level, the patient stops breathing completely for several seconds several hundred times in a single night.

What Are the Different Types of Sleep Apnea?

Three basic types of sleep apnea exist, including central sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, and mixed sleep apnea. All of them are characterized by episodes of loud snoring, feeling tired in the morning, and waking up frequently throughout the night.

Central Sleep Apnea

Although the individual’s breathing stops, the airway remains open at all times when central sleep apnea is involved. Unfortunately, the patient’s brain stops sending the signal that is needed for breathing to occur. When this happens, the person wakes up due to the lack of oxygen. The standard treatment involves the use of medication along with BiPAP equipment.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Patients who suffer with obstructive sleep apnea experience difficulty breathing during sleep because the soft tissues located in the back of the throat collapse to the point that they take up more room than they do normally. As a result, the airway becomes partially or completely blocked, making it difficult for the individual to continue breathing. In most cases, the sleeper does wake up when breathing becomes difficult. Unfortunately, this type of scenario can occur repeatedly in a single night, creating an uncomfortable sleeping situation.

Mixed Sleep Apnea

As the name implies, mixed sleep apnea is characterized by elements of both central and obstructive sleep apnea. Treatment is personalized to the patient’s needs.

Who Is at Risk of Developing Sleep Apnea?

Individuals with any of the following factors are more at risk than people who don’t fall into any of these categories:

  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Male gender
  • Over the age of 40
  • Presence of a deviated septum or other nasal obstruction
  • Personal history of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Personal history of allergies and/or sinus issues
  • Large neck size (16 inches in women and 17 inches in men)
  • History of being overweight


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