Types Of Sleep Apnea
There are two primary types of Sleep Apnea. Each mostly occur in isolation but in approximately one in six cases, patients can have a combination of both forms in a wide variety of proportions.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most commonplace diagnosis and is where the throat muscles relax during sleep to such an extent that the passage of air to and from the lungs becomes blocked. When this happens the autonomic nervous system messages the brain which then wakes up briefly to reopen the airways and then usually tries to return to sleep.
There are broadly three levels of severity of obstructive sleep apnea – Mild, Moderate and Severe – where Mild Sleep Apnea represents half a dozen instances an hour through to Severe Sleep Apnea which would be more than one instance every couple of minutes.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
Central Sleep Apnea this is a less common condition and is the opposite pathway for messaging. This is when the brain “forgets” to tell the airways to remain relatively open during sleep (like the rest of the body, muscles relax somewhat during sleep, but not entirely). Central Sleep Apnea can occur in 1 in 5 cases. In broad terms CSA is most often triggered by other medical conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, brain infections or disorders and stroke victims. In can also be brought on as a side effect to opioid or narcotics medicines.
Mixed Sleep Apnea (MSA)
Mixed Sleep Apnea, as you can no doubt guess, is a combination of OSA and CSA in varying levels of severity and complexity.
Sleep Apnea In Children
Sleep Apnea in babies, infants and toddlers is clearly quite distressing for parents and even the mildest symptoms such as snoring or restlessness or sleeping in odd positions should be brought to your Family Doctor’s attention. In most cases the diagnosis will be Obstructive Sleep Apnea caused by larger than average tonsils or adenoids. The solution is usually to remove these somewhat superfluous tissues and 80% of cases are resolved. For the rest a more comprehensive “Sleep Study” should be undertaken which will typically identify the cause and appropriate treatment.
Importantly, if Sleep Apnea in children is left untreated, it can lead to learning, behavior and growth deficiencies, and in rare cases heart problems.