In central sleep apnea, it is the brain that fails to send the signal to the muscles to breathe whereas in obstructive sleep apnea, the tissue at the rear of the throat falls closed, preventing breathing from occurring. In cases where a person suffers from mixed sleep apnea they experience a mixture of the two different types.
Overweight men, over the age of 40 are at the highest risk for sleep apnea, but it can affect anyone including children. In children, the condition may be treated by removing the tonsils and adenoids. Many who suffer from sleep apnea go undiagnosed due to a lack of awareness by many healthcare professionals and general knowledge with regard to the sleep disorder.
Obstructive sleep apnea is related to enlarged tissue in the throat area. The enlarged area of soft tissue collapses, blocking the passage of air through the throat. Some physicians suggest that losing weight may alleviate some of the issues associated with too much tissue and that surgery to remove excess tissue may be an option if more non-invasive methods are unsuccessful in treating sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea is distinct because it is neurologically based. The brain is failing to send the correct messages to the muscles that control a person’s breathing. CSA may be related to stroke, brain injury, encephalitis, neurological diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s), cervical spine damage or complications from surgery.
Untreated sleep apnea leads to a series of health issues including (but not limited to) high blood pressure, memory problems, impotency, headaches and weight gain. Headaches associated with apnea typically occur upon waking and are associated with the oxygen deprivation suffered during sleep.