The Different Types of Sleep Apnea

What is it called when your heart stops while sleeping? This condition is known as sleep apnea. There are multiple types of sleep apnea, with the most common being obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. Becoming educated on the various types of sleep apnea can help you determine which type you have, the causes, the symptoms, and the best treatment options.

Connection Between Sleep Apnea & Heart Disease

Various studies have found that obesity can play a role in the development of heart disease and sleep apnea. But, having sleep apnea whether a person is obese or not, will still increase their chances of developing heart disease.

Sleep apnea has damaging effects on the cardiovascular system. This is due to the constant pauses in a person’s breathing that can put stress on the heart. For example, every time a person pauses while breathing, the level of oxygen in their blood also drops. This can activate the sympathetic nervous system.

Furthermore, when a person with OSA or obstructive sleep apnea tries to breathe, they begin to breathe in via closed or narrowed upper airways. This can put significant pressure on the chest cavity, which can then damage the heart. Constant changes in intrathoracic pressure can cause damage to the heart and result in atrial fibrillation, heart failure, and even issues with the way blood flows to the heart.

Finally, repetitive changes in a person’s oxygen levels can put a lot of stress on the body.  This is known as oxidative stress and can eventually lead to heart disease because it can encourage systemic inflammation.

Types of Sleep Apnea

What are the warning signs of sleep apnea? If you snore loud enough that it causes a disturbance to the person sleeping next to you, or you wake up gasping for air, you could have sleep apnea. Another warning sign is pausing in your breathing while you are sleeping. Let us read about some of the various types of sleep apnea.

OSA- Obstructive Sleep Apnea

OSA is the most familiar type of sleep apnea and happens when there is a blockage within the throat and mouth. For instance, the tongue may rest against the soft palate while a person is sleeping. The soft palate and uvula can rest against a person’s throat, making it harder to breathe.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea also makes it difficult for a person to breathe, but it isn’t caused by a blockage within the upper airways. The cause of central sleep apnea is neurological. People with central sleep apnea do not snore. Instead, you may notice symptoms such as insomnia, trouble concentrating, and waking up feeling panicky or with shortness of breath.

Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome

A person can have more than one type of sleep apnea. Complex sleep apnea syndrome is a combination of central and OSA sleep apnea. Sometimes, complex sleep apnea is evident following a sleep study. But, it is also possible that sleep apnea may not improve even after the use of a CPAP machine.