Sleep Apnea: Types, Signs and Risks To Know

Understanding Sleep Apnea

What is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder characterized by breathing with repeated stops and starts. It can can occur also if breathing becomes very shallow. The pauses in breathing during a sleep apnea episode can last from a few seconds to full minutes, and breaks of 30 or more times in an hour. The medical condition makes you stop breathing and, it can happen that you won’t even be aware that you have stopped breathing. It can be scary.

Types of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea are of three kinds: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome. The most common type of sleep apnea is the obstructive type, marked by loud snoring. It is characterized as breathing that stops and starts over and over again during sleep. The throat muscles relax intermittently while the person is asleep, blocking the airway. Some experts say that this type of sleep apnea is observed among those with narrower jaws; one reason being that these persons consume more processed foods.

Less common than the obstructive type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea, which the American Sleep Apnea Association estimates to represent just 20% of all sleep apnea cases. This type occurs when the brain doesn’t send the right signals to the muscles that control breathing.

A mix of obstructive and central is the complex sleep apnea syndrome, known also as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, a recently discovered type of sleep apnea. Patients manifest first symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. However, the symptoms are not resolved by using the CPAP (continuous airway pressure) machine, but treatment will reveal an underlying central sleep apnea.

Signs and Symptoms

There are signs and symptoms common to both obstructive and central sleep apnea. They are daytime sleepiness, snoring, episodes of breathing cessation during sleep, waking up abruptly gasping for air, morning headaches, mood changes, and difficulty concentrating. There are also signs and symptoms unique to both.

For the obstructive type are high blood pressure, sweating and dry mouth, while unique to the central type are shortness of breath and chest pain. Risk factors are also involved in sleep apnea. For the obstructive type, are obesity, genes, enlarged adenoids, high blood pressure and diabetes. For the central type, risk factors are age, heart disorders and stroke, opioid use and living at high altitudes.


Recognizing Sleep Apnea: Ask Dr. Jaime Lee

If snoring bothers you, come over to Smile Art in downtown Seattle and know more about it. Let’s talk about types, symptoms and risks.They should not be ignored.