Sleep Apnea – It’s not just snoring

Sleep Apnea – It’s not just snoring


Snoring can be disruptive and make it difficult to get a good night’s rest. Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep disorder that affects your breathing. It can be obstructive, central, or both. Obstructive is more common and can cause your breathing to stop briefly, waking you up. 

Central is less common but is characterized by the brain not sending signals to the muscles that control your breathing. Both types can lead to serious medical problems. Treatments include Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or a sleep study. Dr. Luay Shayya of Neurology Consultants of Arizona explains the dangers of Sleep Apnea and how you can get help to treat it.

Two types of sleep apnea, with different causes

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea experience similar symptoms such as daytime sleepiness, however, the causes are different. OSA is caused by a blockage of the airway, while central sleep apnea results from the brain not sending signals to the muscles that control breathing.  We at sleep apnea Australia treat both disorders

A sleep specialist can diagnose these types of sleep apnea and prescribe treatments, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or lifestyle changes. Severe OSA requires CPAP, while moderate OSA and mild sleep apnea may be treated with lifestyle modifications. If you think you may have sleep apnea, a sleep study can help diagnose the disorder.

Obstructive sleep apnea

Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) affects around 9% of children and 9-24% of adults. It occurs when the muscles in the throat relax and block or narrow the airway, causing breathing to slow down or even stop. 

This causes the brain to wake the person up to open the airway. Most patients don’t notice this happening as it is very short. OSA is more likely to develop in people who are overweight, male, and those who snore loudly. 


Sleep apnea is a disorder that can lead to high BP, diabetes, and heart disease if untreated. PAP therapy is the most common treatment, using a device to keep the airway open while sleeping. If diagnosed correctly, it can be managed effectively. Obstructive and Central Sleep Apnea are the two main types. 

A sleep specialist can diagnose and treat it. Mild to Severe Sleep Apnea can be monitored with a sleep study, and CPAP is used to treat it. Daytime sleepiness can be a symptom of people with OSA.

Central sleep apnea

Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea, and occurs when the airway collapses or becomes blocked while the person is asleep. Risk factors for sleep apnea include loud snoring, being overweight, and having a family history of the disorder. Central Sleep Apnea develops when the brain does not signal the breathing muscles to fall asleep and is often the result of other health conditions, such as heart disease or opioid use. Treatment for emergent Central Sleep Apnea includes Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) therapy, which uses air pressure from a machine to keep the airway open. Sleep apnea patients who go untreated can have an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. It is important to diagnose and treat sleep apnea in order to prevent these risks.

Both types generally have the same symptoms, which include:

  • Brief periods of no breathing
  • Morning headache
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Loud snoring (typically OSA)
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Gasping for air or waking with shortness of breath
  • Waking with a dry mouth

Why sleep apnea is dangerous

Sleep apnea, or OSA, is not a healthy sleep. It can cause your blood oxygen levels to drop, leading to high blood pressure and possibly a stroke or heart attack. Clinical sleep medicine offers treatments such as oral appliances, sleeping pills and bilevel positive airway pressure. How is sleep apnea prevented? 

Losing weight, avoiding alcohol and avoiding sleeping pills are all ways to prevent sleep apnea. Other causes of sleep apnea include falling asleep and upper airway resistance. Daytime fatigue, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and chronic lung diseases may also contribute to sleep apnea. CSA is another type of sleep apnea and can be treated with CPAP.

. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep is important for good health. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can negatively affect your health if you already have heart problems. Low blood oxygen levels can put an extra strain on the heart and lead to arrhythmias. Clinical Sleep Medicine can help with OSA, by prescribing oral appliances, sleeping pills, or Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BPAP). 

Losing weight and preventing Sleep Apnea can help keep your oxygen levels healthy. Upper airway resistance can cause Sleep Apnea to happen, leading to daytime fatigue and possible chronic lung diseases. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can also be a factor in Sleep Apnea. Eating healthy and getting enough sleep can help prevent Sleep Apnea.

Other complications include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Post-surgery complications
  • Liver problems
  • Daytime fatigue

Using oral appliances, other airway pressure devices, or weight loss can help treat sleep apnoea and reduce its symptoms such as snoring loudly, restless sleep, trouble concentrating and increased risk of other sleep disorders. By strengthening upper airway muscles and soft palate, it can help keep the airway open and restore normal sleep. 

However, this can also increase the risk of emergent central sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation. Poor metabolic syndrome can also narrow the airway, leading to more shallow breathing and lower oxygen levels.

It often goes undiagnosed

Approximately 22 million Australians have sleep apnea, with 80% of moderate to severe cases going undiagnosed. This is why it’s so dangerous – people could be putting themselves at risk for serious heart issues without being aware. Sleep apnea can be obstructive, central, or mixed. Treatments range from Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy to surgery. 

A sleep specialist can help diagnose and treat sleep disorders, including mild, moderate, and severe obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome. Those with sleep apnea should have a sleep study and be assessed for daytime sleepiness.

Final thoughts on sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea and is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. Central sleep apnea is less common and is caused by a malfunction in the brain’s ability to regulate breathing. Treating sleep apnea can range from lifestyle changes like losing weight and avoiding alcohol, to medical devices like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines or surgery. 

For severe sleep apnea, a sleep specialist can help diagnose and treat the condition. People with sleep apnea need to take the disorder seriously and seek professional help. A sleep study can help determine the severity of sleep apnea, and the best way to treat it. 

Daytime sleepiness can be a symptom of sleep apnea and should be taken seriously. Mild, moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea, as well as central sleep apnea, can all be treated by a sleep specialist. People with sleep apnea need to be proactive and take steps to treat their disorder.

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