Dental treatment
of snoring and sleep apnea

Types of sleep apnea

There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive apnea and central apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by repetitive episodes of excessive relaxation of the upper airway muscles during sleep.

This relaxation partly obstructs the airway, whereby the episode is classified as hypopnea, or completely obstructs the airway, whereby the condition is designated as apnea. These episodes can last for a few seconds to, in some cases, more than a minute. People with obstructive sleep apnea exhibit hundreds of such incidents during night.

Central apnea is a sleep disorder less common than obstructive apnea, but equally dangerous. In central apnea, the brain centers that stimulate the muscles of respiration "forget" to give the appropriate signals.

This results in the cessation of breathing, but in this case the cause is not some kind of airway obstruction. The sufferer stops breathing for a few seconds. During this time he/she does not make any effort to breathe and does not produce any sound of gasping or choking, as happens to people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Afterwards, the person will start breathing again, often with a somewhat faster pace, due to the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the blood.

Some patients exhibit a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea episodes. This type of apnea is called “mixed apnea” and requires individualized medical treatment of the problems caused by both types of apnea.

More in this category: Obstructive sleep apnea »