There are three main types of sleep apnea. This sleeping disorder is categorized as Obstructive, Central, or Mixed. The causes and possible treatments will vary with each type.
The one thing they all have in common is that a person stops breathing while sleeping. As a result the amount of oxygen taken in while sleeping decreases. The result is low oxygen blood levels. The lack of oxygen is what signals the brain that it needs to breathe again.
Although the apnea sufferer does not wake up during these episodes, it is the interruption of the REM (rapid eye movement or deep sleep) cycle that causes the daytime fatigue and tiredness.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common and usually accompanied with snoring. OSA occurs most in those who are overweight however there are other physiological reasons for it as well. They are:
1. Large Tonsils
2. Large Tongue
3. Large Adenoids
4. Small Jaw
5. Small Airway Opening at Back of the Mouth
The obstruction occurs when the airways are blocked due to the soft tissues in the back of the throat collapsing during sleep.
Breathing temporarily stops followed by a noisy gasp, a snore, or a snort to restore breathing and oxygen levels.
Central Apnea occurs when the brain fails to send a message to the
muscles to breath, but the airways are not blocked. This condition can
be experienced by someone who has had a stroke or a traumatic brain
injury. Other neurological conditions such as Parkinson's, ALS and Alzheimers can also be associated with this sleep disorder. However some people can have it for no known reason.
Because the airways are not blocked, but rather are open, there is no snoring. However, sleep is disrupted just as it is with obstructive sleep apnea, so daytime drowsiness and fatigue are still experienced.
Mixed Apnea is exactly what is sounds like, a combination of the two. The brain will awake the person to resume breathing interrupting quality sleep.
An accurate diagnosis and treatment plan is essential for those with sleep apnea. Find a sleep specialist if you feel you or your loved one may be suffering from this sleep disorder.
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