What is sleep apnea

What is sleep apnea?

It has been speculated that a whopping 936 million people are afflicted with some form of sleep apnea.  Shocking still is the fact that around 85% of these individuals are completely oblivious to the fact that they have an extremely troublesome chronic health issue.

To help you learn more about this widespread condition, we’ve prepared a guide detailing the various forms of sleep apnea.  In addition, we’ll also provide some resources pertaining to doctors, pillows, mattresses, sleeping practices, blankets, and other related topics..

Forms of Sleep Apnea

Forms of Sleep Apnea

Before we explore the various types of sleep apnea, we feel that it’s important to establish a basic understanding of what this chronic condition actually is.  In general sleep apnea is classified as a sleep disorder in which the sleeper stops and starts breathing repeatedly.

This stopping and starting can often be characterized by deep loud snoring, and periodic pauses wherein the sleeper will suddenly gasp for air while still asleep.  The distinctions between the forms of sleep apnea arise due to the specific cause of respiratory restriction.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Starting with its most common form, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is primarily caused by a physical obstruction in the mouth and throat.  This can be caused by a large tongue, a low soft palate, or even an elongated uvula.

Among sleepers with tonsillitis and tonsillar crypts, enlarged tonsil tissue can also contribute to airway restriction.  Regardless of the obstruction, OSA results in uncontrollable snoring and extreme difficulty breathing during sleep.

OSA is usually more common among older sleepers and males in general.  Beyond this, sleeping a certain way, being overweight, or being pregnant can also increase the risk of developing OSA due to the presence of increased fatty tissue in the neck area.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea (CSA) also causes extreme difficulty breathing during sleep, but this difficulty is not the result of airway obstruction.  Instead, the problem is far more troubling in that it is neurological in nature.

Unlike OSA where the sleeper can still breathe in a limited capacity, CSA causes the brain to stop sending signals to the lungs thereby halting breathing altogether in short periods.  While this doesn’t produce the loud snoring characteristic of OSA it still causes similar effects.

This form of sleep apnea can sometimes occur when a person enters a breathing pattern known as Cheyne-Stokes breathing.  During this pattern, the sleeper will alternate between severe hyperventilation and not breathing altogether.

Complex Sleep Apnea

Among the two forms of sleep apnea, complex sleep apnea is by far the most troubling as it is a combination of both CSA and OSA.  Because of its unique nature, complex sleep apnea isn’t always apparent upon initial consultations with your doctor.

In some cases, complex sleep apnea only becomes apparent after your physicians fail to cure your disorder with a CPAP machine.

With the three forms of sleep apnea covered, you should have a better understanding of this disorder and what to watch out for.  Of course, knowing is only half the battle so the next logical step is always to seek proper treatment with a physician of your choice.