What are the Main Types of Sleep Apnea?

If your snoring is about to drive your partner away, and if you feel incredibly tired even though you got a good night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea. 

Sleep apnea is linked to several serious health problems, so it’s important to seek treatment. But what are the main types of sleep apnea? You may not realize there are different levels of sleep apnea severity and various causes, each requiring its own treatment.

Let’s explore the primary types of sleep apnea and how they are treated. 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)<a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/snoring-is-serious-problem-second-person_11982914.htm#query=sleep%20apnea&position=2&from_view=search">Image by gpointstudio</a> on Freepik

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is likely the most common type of sleep apnea, affecting thousands. It’s caused by tissues in the back of the throat becoming more relaxed with age and over time. As they do so, they can block the airway during sleep.

If you experience obstructed airflow, your blood oxygen levels drop. When they drop low enough, your brain is alerted and wakes you up, usually very suddenly. 

You might notice, for example, that you wake up gasping several times a night. Or if you don’t notice any disruptions in your sleep, your partner still  might. 

Believe it or not, your dentist can diagnose and treat OSA. There are two main treatment options available. One is an oral appliance that prevents airway blockage as you sleep. The other is the CPAP machine that thrusts air into your lungs through a mask you wear while sleeping. 

Central Sleep Apnea

Central Sleep Apnea is another yet far less common type of sleep apnea than OSA. And it can be more difficult to diagnose and treat. This type of sleep apnea involves a problem in the brain. 

With an individual who’s suffering from Central Sleep Apnea, the brain is effectively not sending messages to the muscles that control breathing. If this type of sleep apnea is suspected, your primary care physician can recommend a medical doctor who can help with diagnosis and treatment. 

This form of sleep apnea is often associated with other medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, or chronic heart failure. 

Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome

This last type of sleep apnea is something that has only recently been identified. It is a combination of both Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea. 

If a CPAP machine or oral appliance is helping but not completely solving the problem, it’s possible you have this type of hybrid sleep apnea. It’s still the subject of research among sleep medicine specialists. These specialists note that when the obstructed airway is relieved, it may unmask certain respiratory chemosensitivity concerns that then lead to Complex Sleep Apnea syndrome. 

Respiratory chemosensitivity refers to the receptors in the brain that modulate your breathing by detecting changes in your blood carbon dioxide levels. Complex Sleep Apnea syndrome responds best to treatment with adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV) machines. 

The main difference between an ASV machine and a CPAP machine involves how they work. The ASV adjusts the air pressure delivery according to your breathing pattern. Alternatively, CPAP machines just deliver a set level of air pressure consistently. 

Wheaton Dental Sleep Center Can Help

Sleep apnea is more complex than you might have assumed, and it’s more than just a snoring or sleeping nuisance. It can lead to or be a symptom of serious health problems, so it’s important to get it diagnosed and appropriately treated. 

If you believe you suffer from some form of sleep apnea, the Wheaton Dental Sleep Center is a perfect first step in your search for answers. We’re happy to address all of your sleep apnea-related questions and get you the help you need to have a better night’s sleep!