Sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder, and it’s also the most dangerous. People who suffer from sleep apnea stop breathing dozens of times during sleep and may not breathe for as much as three fourths of the time that they’re sleep.
Apnea is particularly severe and life threatening when there are more than twenty or thirty events per hour. Because the heart is sensitive to oxygen levels in the blood, apnea is most dangerous in people with heart disease. There are three types of sleep apnea, classified here according to their causes…
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
As its name implies, obstructive sleep apnea is related to an obstructed upper airway, and it is the most common type as well as the most serious. Soft tissue in the palate, throat, or tongue may block the flow of air as a person struggles to breathe.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea is a rare form that is caused by a problem in the central nervous system. The respiratory center in the brain that is responsible for breathing fails.
Mixed Sleep Apnea
As the name suggests, mixed sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive and central apnea. Many researchers feel most sleep apnea is a mixed form. The reason for this is because a person with obstructive sleep apnea often has a tendency to breathe rapidly when recovering from an obstructive apnea event, thereby lowering the carbon dioxide level in the blood, which can trigger a central apneic event.
Early Identification of Sleep Apnea
The interval during sleep when breathing stops is called an apneic event. The word apnea comes from a Greek prefix a, meaning “no,” and the Greek word pnoia, meaning “breath.” The word hypopnea refers to less breathing. A hypopncic event occurs when the flow of air is reduced for ten seconds or more.
Excessive sleepiness and snoring in obese patients was identified as sleep apnea as early as 1877. Also known as hypoventilation syndrome, the Pickwickian syndrome is named after a loud-snoring character named Joe in Charles Dickens’ book The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Fat Joe had such excessive trouble with daytime sleepiness, he fell asleep while knocking on a door.
A true Pickwickian is massively obese and has diminished chest wall movement, causing restricted breathing and reduced oxygen intake. This same restricted breathing in a Pickwickian may also lead to carbon dioxide retention, which indirectly results in an increased in red blood cells leading to risks of high blood pressure and possibly heart failure. Pickwickians have severe sleep apnea because of their obesity.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms, Side Effects, Diagnosis and Treatment
The Sleep Apnea section of eos Sleep’s website describes the types of sleep apnea, its symptoms and serious side effects, the methods used to diagnose the problem, and the types of treatment currently available.