Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by complete or partial cessations of breathing during sleep. The interruptions in breathing, called apneas, can cause or exacerbate a number of other dangerous medical conditions.
The 3 Types of Sleep Apneas
There are three types of sleep apnea: central, obstructive,
and mixed. In central sleep apnea (CSA), the brain fails to
instruct the body to breath. The person can breathe, but doesn’t.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is far more common than central sleep apnea. With obstructive sleep apnea, the upper airway repeatedly collapses during sleep, either completely or partially preventing air from reaching the lungs. During an obstructive
sleep apnea event, the person is unable to breathe.
Mixed sleep apnea is a condition where a person experiences both central and
obstructive apnea. The gaps in breathing occur between 5 to over 100 times per hour depending on the severity of the condition, and typically last between 20 and 40 seconds. In some cases, breathing may stop for up to two minutes at a time. During each
lapse in breathing, blood oxygen levels in the blood drop below normal.
When the brain registers the lack of oxygen in the body, it jolts the body to wake up.
This reopens the airway but also interrupts sleep. A gasp or choking sound can often be
heard as breathing resumes. The person will typically fall back asleep with no memory of being woken up, which makes sleep apnea hard to recognize. The condition is
typically identified by spouses or family members who notice heavy snoring and pauses