What Causes Sleep Apnea?

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Family member suffers from sleep apnea discomfort
During sleep, when the muscles of the neck and tongue are more relaxed, this soft tissue can obstruct the airway and cause it to become obstructed.
  • During sleep, breathing stops several times.
  • Each time you stop breathing, oxygen in your bloodstream decreases.
  • The person awakens many times during the night to breathe.
  • This led to poor sleep and not enough oxygen.
  • People with sleep apnea are often unaware of it.
  • Sleep apnea is usually noticed by the partner who is sleeping.
  • Low oxygen levels, strenuous breathing, and sudden awakenings during the night can all contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.

The Three Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three types of sleep apnea. They can be classified according to the cause: central sleep apnea (obstructive), central sleep apnea (central), and mixed apnea. Treatment depends on the cause. Let’s examine the causes of each type.

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where the upper airway becomes blocked by tissue from the tongue, throat, soft palate, and throat. The blockage may be caused by combination of anatomical factors and irregularities in breathing reflex.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that makes it difficult for a person to breathe due to an obstruction in their airway. Although his chest moves in and outside, the obstruction prevents air from flowing into or out of the lungs. Finally, his oxygen level drops to the point that he can no longer breathe due to his arousal reflex.

Obstructive apnea patients may be affected by anatomical abnormalities in the upper airway, such as passages in the nose or pharynx (throat). These abnormalities can be observed in the head radiographs of many people suffering from obstructive sleeping apnea.

The abnormal nasal structure could be due to a nasal septum defect or chronic swelling from allergies.

Obstructions in the upper pharynx could include enlarged tonsils, adenoids, a long or fleshy soft palate, or a large Uvula (the fleshy tab that hangs from the back of the throat). The problem in the lower pharynx could be a large or unusually long tongue, a tongue that is too far back or down, a small airway opening, a shorter neck, or a very short lower jaw.

Obstructive sleep apnea can be caused by any one of these structural features or a combination thereof.

Obstructive sleep apnea is often caused by body weight. Half to three-quarters of patients suffering from obstructive sleeping apnea have a bodyweight greater than their ideal weight. For several reasons, obstructive sleep apnea can be common among overweight people. People who have more weight often have fatty deposits in their throat tissue that narrow the upper airway. A second reason is that extra weight can cause breathing problems in heavy people.

Obstructive sleep apnea can also be caused by age. The shape and tone of the upper airway muscles tend to change with aging. While many people don’t experience obstructive sleeping apnea while they are young, others develop it during their 60s and 70s.

Also, gender is a factor. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs three times more frequently in men than it is in women. After menopause, however, the likelihood of developing obstructive sleeping apnea in women increases dramatically.

Obstructive sleep apnea can be treated by removing obstructions to the airway.

You can do this by using a breathing device or surgery. Weight loss is often helpful if obesity is not a problem.

It is crucial that a doctor determines the exact cause of obstructive sleeping apnea before recommending the best treatment or sleep apnea surgery.

Central Sleep Apnea

Pure central apnea, which is the most common type of sleep apnea, is the least common. Central apnea refers to the central nervous system or brain that is responsible for the breathing problem. Central apnea is a condition in which the brain’s respiratory control center, which controls breathing, may stop functioning during sleep. It does not signal the chest muscles to make breathing movements. Researchers believe that this could be due to a variety of disorders in the sleep system.

Breathing reflex. It could be an inherited neurological disorder or a neuromuscular disorder that develops later in life.

Pure central apnea can make it difficult to sleep and breathe at the same moment. The person’s breathing stops as soon as they fall asleep. The person wakes up with a startled gasp and an emergency arousal reaction. A person with severe central apnea may not get enough sleep. This can be a very distressing condition and may last many years before it is properly diagnosed.

People with a psychological disorder called sleep-onset anxiety may experience central apnea. People suffering from sleep-onset anxiety have a tendency to panic about falling asleep. They are able to breathe faster and more deeply, which causes a drop in blood carbon dioxide. They fall asleep quickly and their breathing reflex is not activated for long periods of time due to the low-level carbon dioxide. They end up experiencing central apnea and then awakening to breath.

A person suffering from central apnea usually complains about not getting enough sleep. His problem may be described as “insomnia.” This is due to his nightly awakenings. Only 5% of people suffering from insomnia have sleep apnea.

For people with central apnea, obstruction of the airway is usually not a problem.

Research suggests that central apnea can sometimes be triggered by obstructive airway obstruction. If the obstruction of the airway is treated, central apnea can disappear. Central sleep apnea is common in people with heart disease. Central sleep apnea can be treated with continuous positive pressure (CPAP).

Long-term effects from central apnea can be similar to those of obstructive. These include enlargement of the heart, lung complications, and heart failure.

Central sleep apnea can be treated with bilevel positive airway pressure (bilevel PAP). Drug therapy is promising. If there are any airway obstructions, surgery may be an option. A nighttime ventilator device might also be used. The diaphragm pacemakers have been also developed. They may be an acceptable treatment for central apnea.

Mixed Apnea

Mixed apnea refers to a combination or central and obstructive hypopnea. Many people suffering from sleep apnea have some type of mixed apnea. Some sleep researchers believe that most people with obstructive sleeping apnea have a central component. Additionally, abnormalities in the brain’s breathing reflex often accompany the development of obstructive.

Different people interpret mixed apnea differently.

According to them, when a person recovers from an obstructional apnea episode, she often “over breathes,” which causes a low blood level of carbon dioxide. This lower level of carbon dioxide can trigger a central event that causes mixed apnea. The more severe the obstruction, the more likely it is that there will be “over-breathing”, and the more apparent the central apnea component.

No matter what the cause or effect of mixed apnea may be, treatment is generally done first. The central apnea can often disappear once the breathing obstruction has been treated.


  • Sleep apnea is when your breathing becomes difficult.
  • Sleep apnea can lead to cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, and higher chances of stroke and heart attack.
  • There are three types of sleep apnea.
  • The brain is the origin of central apnea (the least common type).
  • Obstructive sleep apnea can be caused by an obstruction in the airway.
  • Mixed apnea is the most common type. It includes central and obstructive.
  • The type of apnea will determine the treatment that is chosen.

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