Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea.
The symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas overlap, sometimes making it difficult to determine which type you have. The most common symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas include:
•Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep — which would be reported by another person.
•Gasping for air during sleep.
•Awakening with a dry mouth.
•Difficulty staying asleep, known as insomnia.
•Excessive daytime sleepiness, known as hypersomnia.
•Difficulty paying attention while awake.
What causes sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea usually has specific causes, and there’s evidence that it may run in families. Overall, there are three main forms of sleep apnea, with some differences in how and why they happen. The types are:
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Central sleep apnea (CSA).
Mixed/complex sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
This is the more common form. Obstructive sleep apnea happens when muscles in your head and neck relax while you’re asleep, causing the surrounding tissue to press on your windpipe. That obstructs air’s ability to pass through it.
Central sleep apnea
This form of sleep apnea happens because of a problem in your brain. Under ordinary circumstances, your brain manages your breathing all the time, including while you sleep.
Central sleep apnea can happen for many reasons, including:
-Low blood oxygen levels (hypoxia) because of high altitude.
-Nervous system damage, especially in your brainstem (which is what manages your breathing) or parts of your spinal cord.
-Treating obstructive sleep apnea initially with CPAP (this typically goes away with consistent CPAP use).
-Nervous system conditions like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).
-Mixed/complex sleep apnea
There’s also a mixed/complex type of sleep apnea. This form has a combination of both obstructive events and central events.
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