It’s the mantra chanted by healthcare professionals the world over: eat healthily, exercise regularly and sleep well. These are the three cornerstones to the quintessential healthy lifestyle. And yet, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association and many other sleep disorder organizations, there are tens of millions of Americans who suffer from sleep disorders that are not only impairing their ability to get a good night’s rest, but are terribly debilitating to their quality of life.

Sleep Apnea

One of the most common of all the sleep disorders is obstructive sleep apnea and with symptoms that include a total cessation of breathing for as long as a minute, sleep apnea treatment isn’t an option… it’s a necessity! In one night, a sleep apnea sufferer may stop breathing hundreds of times and this disruption of deep sleep and the delivery of oxygen to the brain causes a plethora of symptoms, all of which act to drain energy levels, mental acuity and general health. What’s most shocking, however, is that the vast majority of these cases are going completely undiagnosed by doctors. In fact, 80% is the number quoted by the American Sleep Apnea Association for the percentage of moderate to severe sleep apnea cases that have not been diagnosed and treated.

The Different Kinds of Sleep Apnea

Sleep physicians have officially diagnosed three different kinds of sleep apnea:
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
  • Mixed Sleep Apnea (MSA)

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic breathing disorder that happens when the throat muscles relax at night, causing the tongue and other soft tissues to partially or fully collapse and impede the airway. This blocks the healthy flow of oxygen to the brain, which prompts the body to wake up and correct the breathing problem. The partial collapse of the airway can cause snoring, while the complete blockage of the airway leads to cessation of breathing for as long as a minute! Most people aren’t aware of this and don’t remember waking up a dozen or more times every night. However, what they will notice is the daytime symptoms that result from having a constantly disturbed deep sleep pattern. Not remembering being disturbed at night is one of the reasons why sleep apnea sufferers don’t realize they have a problem. Oftentimes, this condition is identified by those who share a bed or room with the sufferer, and who are constantly have their own sleep disturbed by a cycle of snoring, choking and gasping.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea, like obstructive sleep apnea, tends to predominantly affect older males, however the key difference here is that CSA is often linked with a very serious underlying condition, such as stroke, spinal injury, congestive heart failure, neurological disease, atrial fibrillation or brainstem injury. Central sleep apnea is caused when the brain “forgets” to instruct the breathing muscles to do their job, so CSA is more of an electrical failure of the body’s nervous system than it is a mechanical problem, which is the case with OSA. Thankfully, central sleep apnea is a comparatively rare problem, although it warrants investigation if you believe you exhibit the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea.

What is Mixed Sleep Apnea?

As the name suggests, mixed sleep apnea is really a combination of central and obstructive sleep apnea. It’s only observed in around 15% of OSA cases that are being treated with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) appliances, according to the Mayo Clinic, which conducted a study in 2006. In spite of treatment, these cases continue to have difficulty breathing while sleeping. Treatment for MSA is still in its infancy, although some therapies are available.