Two types of sleep apnea

What are the Two Types of Sleep Apnea?

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  • Post last modified:March 28, 2024

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes an individual to stop breathing. “Apnea” is a Greek word that means “Breathless.” It happens either because the brain doesn’t correctly control the breathing (central apnea) or because of blockage of the airway (obstructive sleep apnea). 

Basically, two main types of apnea have the same symptoms, but they each develop in a different body part. A proper diagnosis and treatment are important to get rid of this disorder. Let’s learn more about this disorder comprehensively. 

Type of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep condition in which breathing repeatedly starts and stops. If you are snoring loudly and feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have this disorder. Normally, there are two types of apnea

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea 
  2. Central Sleep Apnea 

Central and obstructive sleep apnea both result in problems in breathing while sleeping. Because one involves the brain’s signals to the airway system, and the other involves the airway system itself. Selecting the correct treatment can be tough without knowing which type the patient exactly has. A medical professional should carefully evaluate any type of apnea before beginning treatment.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The most typical type of apnea is OSA. It happens when there is a functional obstruction in the throat and mouth. For example, when the tongue falls against the soft palate when you are sleeping. After that, the uvula and the soft palate then fall against the throat. It makes breathing more difficult and even impossible in many cases.

Obstructive apnea can lead to snoring as the soft palate and tongue rattle. It can cause a person to wake up feeling as if they cannot breathe. With OSA, the lungs process normally, and the body still tries its best to breathe. However, it is not possible to get enough air through the upper airway.

This disorder becomes more common with age and is much more prevalent in males, pregnant people, people with heavyweight, and people who sleep on their backs. Some signs and symptoms include: 

  • Waking up with a dry mouth
  • Waking from sleep feeling panicked
  • Heavy snoring or gasping for air during sleep 
  • Regular headaches
  • Unable to concentrate at school or work or feeling confused
  • Feeling tired when awake or waking during sleep

Central Sleep Apnea

Central apnea breathing shares many signs with obstructive apnea. However, the root of this disease is the individual’s brain rather than the airways themselves. The interruptions in breathing in central apnea are due to a communication gap between the brain parts that control the muscles that help while breathing. 

Central apnea patients stop breathing effectively while sleeping because their brain forgets to tell the airways to keep themselves open. The cause of CSA is neurological. Unlike with obstructive sleep apnea, the body does not try to breathe in CSA, so there is no snoring. Instead, because the nervous system and the brain don’t consistently send a signal to breathe, the patient stops breathing. 

Some patients have no symptoms, but some others might notice:

  • Feeling panic or waking up short of breath
  • Trouble concentrating or daytime sleepiness
  • Insomnia

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Causes

In adults, the most typical cause of obstructive apnea is obesity and excess weight, which is associated with the soft tissue of the throat and mouth. While sleeping, when tongue muscles and throat are more relaxed, this soft tissue can cause the airway to be blocked. 

More than half of people with obstructive apnea are either higher-weight (BMI of 30.0 or above) or (body mass index of 25-29.9). A 10% weight gain raises the risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) by 6 times, though the effect decreases after the age of 60. 

Other possible risk factors and causes for OSA include:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • A round head 
  • A narrow throat 
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Allergies
  • Medical conditions congesting upper airways
  • A deviated septum (issue with nose structure)
  • Smoking 
  • Excess growth due to hormones

Central Sleep Apnea Causes

In most cases, doctors can’t figure out the root cause of central apnea. They call this ‘idiopathic’ or primary CSA. But some of them are linked to a medication, another illness, or the environment:

  • Kidney problems, heart conditions, and other illnesses can also be the reason for non-CSB CSA. 
  • Kidney failure, stroke, or heart failure can cause central apnea with a specific Cheyne-Stokes pattern of breathing. According to doctors, this is CSB-CSA. 
  • Some drugs and medications, especially opiates like fentanyl or hydrocodone, can cause CSA. 
  • High-altitude CSA generally happens during sleep when you are very high up (above 15,000 feet). When you return to descending altitudes, it usually goes away.

The reason for CSA in children is typically unclear (idiopathic). Still, there are many things that can hinder the brain signals that normally help the child breathe. And these points could lead to CSA: 

  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Problems at the brain stem or the base of the skull
  • Premature birth
  • Brain tumors 
  • Head injury 

Treatments For Each Type Of Sleep Apnea

The treatments for each type of apnea depend on the seriousness of the apnea as well as the person’s age and other risk factors. Several medical conditions can increase the risk for both types of sleep apnea. These preexisting situations can be useful in making a diagnosis clear.

Treatments For Obstructive Apnea

Higher-weight patients are prone to develop OSA. Individuals who smoke, are male, and consume alcohol are at risk for this type of disorder as well. Prior treatment may involve wearing an oral appliance designed by a dentist for treating sleep apnea. If the individual has a moderate to severe form of the disorder, a continuous positive airway pressure mask at nighttime may be recommended.

Treatments For Central Apnea 

Central sleep apnea can also be treated with a CPAP machine. For severe situations that do not respond to the CPAP treatment, patients with CSA could consider using a different type of pressurized air delivery system known as adaptive servo-ventilation. CSA can be induced by medication. There are several medications, including opioids, can also cause central apnea symptoms. These medications can also be discontinued to lessen the severity of apnea if the patient’s condition allows. 

What Are The Lifestyle Changes That Can Manage Sleep Apnea? 

Some traditional treatments for sleep apnea include wearing a CPAP mask during the night. This method is effective, but some people find this procedure a bit uncomfortable. Some home remedies, including taking care of your mental health, can also be beneficial for you in this condition. Here are some of the alternative treatments to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea: 

  • Maintaining a healthy weight 
  • Doing regular exercise or yoga
  • Using a humidifier (devices that add moisture to the air).
  • Avoid smoking and consumption of alcohol 
  • Using oral appliances 

Final Line

Sleep apnea is a potentially severe sleep condition in which breathing repeatedly starts and stops. There are commonly two types of apnea, obstructive and central. If you are experiencing any symptoms of this disorder, it is better to diagnose and treat it before it gets too late. Contact your healthcare provider if you are encountering any symptoms.


How do you fix sleep apnea?

Maintaining healthy sleeping habits, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, getting regular physical activity, healthy weight, and quitting smoking.

How do I cure my sleep apnea?

Raising the head of the bed, making healthy lifestyle changes, try losing weight, wear dental or oral appliances are some of the ways in which you can cure sleep apnea.

What are the 3 symptoms of sleep apnea?

Excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, and episodes of stopped breathing during sleep.

Can sleep apnea go away?

Sleep apnea disorder is chronic and can’t be cured completely.

Shriya Adhikari

Shriya Adhikari is an entertainment writer who merges her passion for storytelling with a sharp eye for the latest trends in movies, television, and music. She is a dedicated writer who crafts engaging articles to captivate readers and immerse them in the dynamic world of entertainment.

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