What Is The Difference Between Obstructive And Central Sleep Apnea?

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Sleep apnea is a disorder which causes breathing to stop repeatedly while one is sleeping. This disorder can cause serious health problems such as diabetes, stroke, heart failure, and depression. You should seek treatment for this condition as soon as possible; however, treatment may differ depending on whether your sleep apnea is obstructive or central.


  • The most common type of sleep apnea, obstructive, is caused when the throat muscles relax during sleep. They no long support the tonsils, soft palate, uvula, and other tissues in the back of the throat. These tissues collapse and may constrict the airway, causing sleep apnea.
  • Central sleep apnea is caused when the brain fails to signal the breathing muscles to breathe. The reasons for this failure may include stroke, brain tumor, heart problems, or brain infection.


The causes for these two types of sleep apnea may be very different, but most of the symptoms remain the same. These symptoms can include snoring, awaking suddenly and feeling short of breath, hypersomnia, trouble concentrating, moodiness, or waking with a headache.


  • Some of the simplest ways to treat obstructive sleep apnea include sleeping on your side or losing weight. However, more action may be necessary such as wearing an oral appliance which holds the jaw in a way that prevents a blocked airway. Using a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine is another common treatment.
  • Central sleep apnea treatment often includes the use of a CPAP device as well. However, the main treatment is to remedy the cause for the central sleep apnea with the help of a physician.