Continuing to demystify Sleep Apnea, let us take a look at what the different types of prevalent Apneas are. Clinical diagnoses have found 3 basic types, namely Central Sleep Apnea, Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Mixed Sleep Apnea.
Central Sleep Apnea is caused when the brain misfires on it’s cues and fails to trigger the respiratory control centres in time. In such cases the neurological feedback mechanism fails to maintain the respiratory rate despite the increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. This means that with the respiratory centre failing to signal ‘inhale’ the person may miss some cycles of breathing, which is potentially dangerous as it can trigger seizures, angina, arrhythmias etc. Usually the respiration is re-established on its own with frequent exhalation to flush out the CO2 build-up and inhalation to replace gas impurities with oxygen.
In the more common case of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OAP), there are one or more obstructions in the upper airway. The obstruction could occur due to excess fat/tissue build-up in the wind pipe or due to large tonsil structure or even a misaligned lower jaw, structure of your head and neck, a blocked nasal airway or a large tongue. This too results in drop in blood O2 levels and dangerous increase in CO2 levels. The resumption of breathing is almost always with gasping or chortling/coughing etc.
Mixed or Complex Sleep Apnea is a combination of the above 2 types of apneas. It usually happens that a chronic and acute case of Obstructive Sleep Apnea festers into a Central Sleep Apnea condition. This is an even more dangerous situation.
So, what are the options available to one suffering from this breathing disorder? Fortunately, there are many lines of treatment depending on the type and cause of your Apnea. Your doctor will run a conclusive test on you with the help of a computerised device called the polysomnograph, which will read your brain signals, eye movement, respiration rate, oxygen levels, muscle tension etc through an overnight sleep test at the hospital or home assisted by a sleep technologist. The results of this test will determine the course of treatment you will follow.