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Which Type of Sleep Apnea Do You Have?

A diagnosis of sleep apnea means that your snoring is more than just an annoying sound that can keep your housemates awake. Having sleep apnea means that you regularly stop breathing involuntarily while you’re asleep. The reason this occurs depends on the type of sleep apnea you’re experiencing.

There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea. No matter what kind you have, not treating it can lead to serious complications, such as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.

Sleep apnea specialist Trent W. Smallwood, DDS, of the Centre for Contemporary Dental Concepts in Tempe, Arizona, provides professional diagnosis and treatment for people with all types of the condition. After determining which type of sleep apnea you have, Dr. Smallwood can address the cause of your symptoms to help you experience sounder sleep and better health.

What a sleep apnea diagnosis means

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which your breathing is interrupted during sleep. You typically wake up as your brain and body experience oxygen deficiency. When this happens, you may react by choking or snoring loudly as you try to resume breathing.

This interruption in breathing doesn’t typically last more than a few seconds. However, some people with sleep apnea can experience 5-30 or more episodes of interrupted breathing every hour, totaling hundreds of sleep disruptions every night. 

Without appropriate treatment, any form of sleep apnea can deprive your body of the important sleep you need for good health and disease prevention.

All types of sleep apnea may cause a combination of the following symptoms:

How the types of sleep apnea differ

The differences between the three types of sleep apnea involve the reasons that the condition occurs. 

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when your tongue or the muscles in the back of your throat relax and collapse when you fall asleep. This relaxed soft tissue blocks your airway and interferes with your breathing. 

Central sleep apnea 

Central sleep apnea is related to a disorder in your central nervous system. It is much less common than obstructive sleep apnea. Of those who are referred for sleep studies, less than 10% have central sleep apnea.

Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain fails to control the muscles that regulate your heart rate and breathing while you sleep. It may be associated with an underlying medical condition, such as heart failure, a brain tumor, or stroke.

Complex sleep apnea

Complex sleep apnea, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, occurs when you have a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. While it’s the least common type of sleep apnea, it can be the most problematic due to the dual causes. 

Treating sleep apnea

Treating sleep apnea can help you achieve productive sleep, improve cognitive functioning, and help your body protect itself against preventable diseases. 

If you have mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, you may benefit from lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, losing weight, or learning to sleep on your side. Dr. Smallwood may also recommend that you wear a mouthpiece to keep your airway open while you sleep. 

This type of device, called a mandibular repositioning mouthpiece, is individually fitted to your mouth. It fits over your upper and lower teeth like a sports mouthguard. It holds your jaw in a forward position that keeps your airway open while you sleep. 

For any type of moderate sleep apnea, you may benefit from using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. This device uses a mask that is held over your nose and mouth with straps while you sleep. A large tube, called a cannula, connects the mask to a motorized machine that produces a continuous flow of compressed air into your throat. 

If you have central sleep apnea or complex sleep apnea, you may require further evaluation of your condition by a neurologist, cardiologist, or other specialists to diagnose an underlying condition.

If you have sleep apnea or think you might, take the first step to resting comfortably again by booking an appointment online or over the phone with the Centre for Contemporary Dental Concepts today.

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