All About Sleep Apnea

All About Sleep Apnea

May 25, 2022

Sleep apnea can affect children and adults, and it is one of the most common sleep disorders in America. People need to be aware of sleep apnea and know its types, symptoms, causes, and treatments due to its prevalence and health impacts.

Sleep Apnea Overview and Types


Sleep Apnea is a medical condition where your breathing starts and repeatedly stops while you sleep. There are three main types of sleep apnea. They include:

·       Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): OSA is the most common form of sleep apnea. It occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax to the point of collapse and block your airway during sleep. Snoring is one of the most common signs of obstructive sleep apnea.

·       Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): CSA results from a problem with the brain’s system for controlling the muscles involved in respiration. This leads to slower and shallower breathing.

·       Mixed Sleep Apnea: When an individual has both OSA and CSA, it is referred to as mixed sleep apnea or complex sleep apnea.

Because the signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apnea overlap, it can be challenging to determine which type you have. The most common signs and symptoms of both include:

·       Loud snoring

·       Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep that another person witnesses

·       Gasping for air during sleep

·       Dry mouth when awakening

·       Morning headache

·       Insomnia (difficulty staying asleep)

·       Hypersomnia (difficulty staying awake during the day)

·       Difficulty paying attention while awake

·       Irritability

Can Sleep Apnea be Managed?

Loud snoring may indicate a problem, but not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. Talk to your doctor if you have signs or symptoms of sleep apnea, or have the risk factors such as:

·       The size and positioning of a person’s neck, jaw, tongue, tonsils, and other tissue near the back of the throat can directly affect airflow.

·       Being overweight is a leading cause of OSA

·       The use of sedatives, including alcohol, makes it easier for the airway to become obstructed.

·       Individuals who have one or more close relatives with OSA are more likely to develop it.

·       Cigarette smoking increases the risk of OSA.

·       Sleeping on your back makes it easier for tissue to collapse around the airway and block it.

·       Nasal congestion reduces your ability to breathe through the nose and makes you more likely to experience OSA.

·       Hormone conditions like an over or underactive thyroid increase your risk for OSA. This is because one may lead to tissue swelling near the airway, and the other can contribute to a person’s risk of obesity.

Sleep apnea can lead to sleep deprivation, and lack of sleep has far-reaching health consequences that affect a person physically, mentally, and emotionally. In addition, because it affects oxygen balance in the body, untreated sleep apnea raises dangers for cardiovascular issues, including high blood pressure, heart attack, heart disease, and stroke. Sometimes lifestyle changes can resolve OSA, such as:

·       Weight loss

·       Reducing the use of sedatives

·       Sleeping on your side

Another standard treatment is the nightly use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machine. These devices use a mask to push air into the airway to keep it open during sleep. Other types include mouthpieces that hold the jaw or tongue in a specific position. Surgery to remove tissue and expand the airway can be considered when other options aren’t successful. Medications can also help with daytime sleepiness in people with this symptom.


Treatment for CSA typically focuses on managing the underlying condition. CPAP or BiPAP machines or supplemental oxygen may be helpful also.  

50-70 million US adults suffer from sleep apnea

Do you have sleep apnea? Rainier Clinical Research Center has research studies starting soon that may help! To learn more, contact us toll-free at 888-478-8343.


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