Everything To Know About Different Types Of Sleep Apnea

The thought of not being able to breathe during the night may well terrify you. Unfortunately, it’s something that plenty of people deal with as a result of sleep apnea. What’s more, there isn’t just one type of it either. Three different versions of sleep apnea exist, and understanding them is essential for those who may have them.

What is sleep apnea?

No matter what type of sleep apnea you have, they all pose the same danger in that they stop you from breathing during the night. This typically happens at least five times an hour, which can obviously be quite distressing for the people it affects. It’s not uncommon to repeatedly wake up gasping because your lungs are being denied the oxygen that they need. The reason this happens depends on whether your sleep apnea is obstructive, central, or mixed.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive, where the upper airway collapses or is obstructed during sleep. This can cause oxygen desaturation in the blood as the diaphragm fights to reopen the airway. Around 20% of people are believed to have this form of sleep apnea, with elements like obesity, asthma, and diabetes all potential risk factors. Symptoms might include snoring, sore throat, and difficulty concentrating during the day, with surgery a potential treatment for the disorder. Continuous positive airway pressure and a mandibular advancement device are other possible measures to deal with it.

What is central sleep apnea?

Rather than a blocked airway, central sleep apnea is caused by an issue in the central nervous system. The brain doesn’t tell the muscles to breathe during the night, resulting in disrupted sleep. Going to bed at a high altitude, congestive heart failure, and stroke are all potential influencers, with symptoms similar to obstructive sleep apnea. How this disorder is treated largely depends on what’s causing it in the first place. A doctor should be able to identify this and decide whether supplemental oxygen, bilevel positive airway pressure or something else is necessary for treatment.


As the name suggests, mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the other types of sleep apnea. One form might have more influence than the other, but both play a role in a person’s inability to sleep at night. Continuous positive airway pressure is often the best treatment option for this because it’s effective at fighting both forms of sleep apnea. This involves wearing a mask at night through which air pressure is delivered. That way, your airways remain open, and you can continue to breathe while you sleep.

Sleep apnea isn’t something that will just go away if you try to ignore it. If you fear you may have one of these disorders, it’s well worth speaking to a professional and getting some tests done. While a positive diagnosis might be scary, it’ll allow your doctor to prescribe treatment that should deal with your sleep apnea. That way, you shouldn’t face any potential complications in the future.