The National Institutes of Health estimates between 50 to 70 million Americans have sleep disorders, which can influence your overall health and quality of life. Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders, affecting approximately 22 million people across the country, but this number could be higher, with many cases remaining undiagnosed.
When left undiagnosed and/or untreated, sleep apnea puts you at risk for numerous health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. All sleep apnea types are treatable, but some are easier to treat than others.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a type of sleep disorder that affects your breathing when you should be sleeping peacefully. This disorder may cause you to stop breathing many times throughout the night, disturbing your REM cycle, and causing you to feel exhausted during the day. There are three types of sleep apnea, but the common signs and symptoms for all sleep apnea types include:
- Excessive snoring
- Gasping and pauses in breathing
- Daytime sleepiness
- Cognitive and mood changes
- Sexual dysfunction or decreased libido
- Waking up to urinate numerous times during the night
- Weight gain
- Waking up with a headache and/or a dry mouth and throat
- Frequent sore throats
Three Sleep Apnea Types
When you have sleep apnea, you may stop breathing a few times each night or hundreds of times. Sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. There are three primary types of sleep apnea, including:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea: OSA is the most common of the sleep apnea types and is usually caused by a partial or complete blockage of the airway. While you’re sleeping, your throat muscles relax, causing your tongue and/or the soft tissue in the rear of your throat to collapse into your airway and close off your airflow.
During an OSA event, the restricted airflow also reduces blood flow to your brain, which signals your brain to wake up partially and your body to breathe. Upon partial awakening, you may gasp loudly, choke, or make snorting sounds as your body fights to take a deep enough breath to break free of the obstruction. Once you can breathe again, your brain returns to sleep, and the process starts over. There are three types of OSA:
- Mild OSA sufferers experience five to 14 episodes of interrupted breathing in an hour
- Moderate OSA sufferers experience 15 to 30 episodes of interrupted breathing in an hour
- Severe OSA sufferers experience 30 plus episodes of interrupted breathing in an hour
Central Sleep Apnea: CSA is a communication problem, unlike OSA, which is considered a mechanical problem. CSA occurs when your brain temporarily fails to signal the muscles that control your breathing to move. Your airway isn’t actually blocked, but the muscles don’t receive the signal to breathe, so you stop breathing. Medical problems and conditions that affect the brain stem can cause CSA and present with varying symptoms. For example, snoring isn’t as prevalent in CSA as OSA. Conditions that could lead to CSA include:
- Brain infection
- Heart failure
- Parkinson’s disease
- Certain medications, such as narcotic painkillers
Mixed Sleep Apnea: MSA is a combination of both sleep apnea types, so it results when you have episodes of OSA and CSA. In some cases, people with OSA being treated with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, devices develop CSA. However, CPAP is still a recommended treatment for MSA at the lowest possible pressure setting, or a Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure device, or BiPAP, may be used instead. Some people have also had some success with adaptive servo ventilators, which alter its settings according to a breath-to-breath analysis.
Contact the Sleep Apnea Experts In Bridgewater, NJ
Respacare in Bridgewater, New Jersey, is a full-service pulmonary and sleep medical practice established in 2003. Our team of board-certified physicians provides specialist care for sleep-related issues and disorders, including all sleep apnea types. Many sleep apnea sufferers remain undiagnosed, thus untreated, which can have serious consequences on your health.
Sleep apnea can be easily diagnosed and successfully treated, so don’t let it impact your physical or emotional well-being. Contact Respacare today at 732-356-9950 to discuss your sleep apnea symptoms and schedule a sleep disorder test designed for home use.