What Kinds of Sleep Apnea are There?

There are three types of sleep apnea, obstructive, central, and complex.

If you have obstructive sleep apnea, it is caused by the muscles of the your throat relaxing while sleep. When this occurs, the muscles provide less support to the tonsils, the uvula (the triangular piece of tissue that hangs from your soft palate), and the side walls of the throat. When these areas get less support, it narrows your airway and you can’t get an adequate breath in.

If you have central sleep apnea, your brain is not sending the correct signals to the muscles that control your breathing. This causes you to have shallow breathing or to stop breathing for intervals of time.  This type of apnea is more common after a stroke, with heart disease, or with narcotic or sedative use.

Complex sleep apnea is a combination of the obstructive and central forms.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Anyone can get sleep apnea including women, men, and children. There are a number of things that do increase your risk of sleep apnea such as:

  • Age. Sleep apnea tends to be more common in adults older than 60
  • Excess weight. Thin people develop sleep apnea as well but anyone who has excess fat around the upper airway is at increased risk of having their breathing obstructed
  • Neck thickness. Anyone who has a thicker neck tends to have a narrower airway, making it easier to become blocked
  • Narrowed Airway. If you have inherited a naturally narrow throat or your tonsils or adenoids are enlarged, this can block your airway
  • Smoking. Anyone who smokes is three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea as smoking can increase the inflammation and fluid retention of your upper airway
  • Family history. Sleep apnea is often found in families
  • Nasal congestion. If you suffer from allergies or any anatomical nasal issue, you are more likely to develop sleep apnea