Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide.

It is characterized by 10-second or longer pauses in breathing while you’re asleep, which can cause you to not reach REM sleep, where your body is able to rest and restore itself. This leads to poor sleep quality and a host of major health problems if left untreated.

Order Your Home Sleep Test

There are two main types of sleep apnea:

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

Central sleep apnea (CSA)

Tired man holding face

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the muscles in the throat fail to keep the airway open during sleep. This causes the airway to collapse or become blocked, resulting in breathing pauses and a decrease in oxygen levels which can cause cellular and tissue damage to your organs if prolonged.

These pauses in breathing, called apneas, can last from a few seconds to minutes and occur dozens or even hundreds of times an hour. 

There are several factors that contribute to the development of OSA, such as:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Aging
  • Genetics and family history
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Sedatives

OSA is also more common in people with certain physical characteristics, such as a thick neck, a large tongue or tonsils, and/or a small jaw.

OSA is linked to many medical conditions. If someone has 2 or more of the following medical conditions, they are at high risk for also having obstructive sleep apnea:

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes type 2
  • Acid Reflux
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • History of stroke
  • History of a heart attack.

It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have OSA, as it can have serious consequences on your health if left untreated, including increased risk for heart attack and stroke, which could lead to a different form of sleep apnea.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe due to a problem with the brain’s respiratory control center. While this type of sleep apnea is uncommon, it can be caused by complications of untreated obstructive sleep apnea.
Underlying medical conditions, such as heart failure or stroke, often cause CSA. These conditions can affect the brain’s ability to control breathing, leading to the development of CSA.

The symptoms of CSA are similar to those of OSA, but it may also be characterized by shallow or slow breathing during sleep. 

It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have CSA, as it can have serious consequences on your health if left untreated.

Both OSA, CSA, and a combination of the two, called Mixed Apneas (MA), can be diagnosed through a sleep study, also known as a polysomnogram, which measures various bodily functions during sleep, including brain activity, eye movement, muscle activity, and breathing.

A sleep study is usually the best way to diagnose sleep apnea. This test measures various bodily functions during sleep, including brain activity, eye movement, muscle activity, and breathing. A sleep study can be conducted in a sleep center or at home with the use of a portable sleep monitor. Sleep Matters uses the WatchPat One, a simple sleep apnea detection device that slips over your finger while you sleep!

Sleep apnea treatment often involves using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

This machine delivers a constant flow of air through a mask or nasal pillows, which helps to keep your airway open during sleep. CPAP therapy has been around for decades and includes both bipap and autopap therapy.

With a traditional CPAP machine, the pressure of the air is determined by your doctor based on the severity of your sleep apnea. However, there are some CPAP machines, like an autopap, that will automatically adjust the air pressure to your specific needs using sensors and software to automate this process. Using a CPAP machine can significantly improve your sleep quality and reduce the number of apneas you experience during the night.
While doctors have been prescribing CPAP therapy for decades, and they work great, many people discover that they cannot tolerate wearing a CPAP.

The good news is that are alternatives to CPAP therapy, including:

  • losing weight
  • quitting smoking
  • Oral appliance therapy
  • Surgery
  • Surgical implant
  • Upper airway surgery
  • Lifestyle changes
  • avoiding alcohol and sedative medications before bedtime

Lifestyle changes can help to reduce the severity of your sleep apnea and improve your overall health. Other treatment options include using oral appliances, which help keep your airway open during sleep, and surgical procedures to remove excess tissue from the throat.

It’s important to note that treatment for sleep apnea is highly individualized, and the best course of action will depend on the severity of your sleep apnea and your specific needs and preferences. Your doctor will work with you to determine your best treatment plan.

It’s also important to follow your treatment plan consistently and communicate with your doctor about any concerns or difficulties you may be experiencing. By taking an active role in your treatment, you can improve your sleep quality, reduce your risk of health problems, and improve your overall quality of life.

Other treatments, such as oral appliances and surgical procedures, may also be recommended by a doctor, depending on the severity of the condition. These treatments can help keep the airway open during sleep, which can greatly improve sleep quality and reduce the number of apneas experienced at night.

In addition, it’s important to note that sleep apnea is a chronic condition that needs long-term management, even if symptoms improve. Regular follow-up with a healthcare professional is recommended to ensure the treatment plan is tailored to the patient’s needs and to monitor for any changes.

Do you have questions about Sleep Apnea?