Obstructive Sleep Apnea vs Central Sleep Apnea

If you notice you struggle to breathe while sleeping or experience consistent daytime drowsiness and weakness, it may be the warning signs of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that disrupts your breathing.

However, you don’t need to panic when you notice signs of sleep apnea. All you need to do is first identify the type of sleep apnea and then get a proper treatment from an experienced sleep apnea doctor. That’s why we’ve provided this comprehensive guide to help you.

Sleep apnea and its discomfort can become a thing of the past if you consult our experienced doctors at Bedford Dental Group. With a track record of over 10,000 cases and 17 years in the industry, our team of specialized sleep apnea dentists offers a unique approach to diagnosing and treating this condition. Contact us today and schedule a free consultation with our team!

Obstructive Sleep Apnea vs Central Sleep Apnea – 5 Similarities

  1. Both cause pauses in breathing during sleep (apneas).
  2. Both can disrupt sleep and lead to daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and other health problems.
  3. Both require a sleep study for diagnosis.
  4. Both can benefit from lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding sleep deprivation.
  5. Both can be treated with CPAP or APAP therapy in certain cases.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea vs Central Sleep Apnea – Differences

Obstructive Sleep Apnea vs Central Sleep Apnea - Differences

Cause of Breathing Interruption – In OSA, the airway gets blocked, typically because the soft tissue in the throat collapses during sleep. In contrast, central sleep apnea occurs when there is a communication issue between the brain and the muscles that control breathing. In central sleep apnea, the brain doesn’t send the right signals to these muscles, leading to pauses in breathing.

Patterns of Breathing Interruption – In obstructive sleep apnea, there’s often visible effort to breathe despite the blockage, which might look like struggling or gasping during sleep. On the other hand, central sleep apnea is marked by a lack of effort; there are pauses in breathing without any visible struggle.

Prevalence – Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common type of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is less common and is usually seen in people with certain medical conditions.

Risk Factors – OSA is closely associated with factors like being overweight, having a large neck, or lifestyle choices such as smoking and alcohol use. Central sleep apnea, however, is more often connected to other health conditions like problems with the brainstem, heart failure, or the use of certain medications.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Approach – Treatment for OSA often includes using a CPAP machine, making lifestyle changes, or sometimes surgery. Central sleep apnea treatments might involve addressing any underlying health issues, using specialized CPAP machines like Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV), and occasionally medication.

Association with Other Conditions – While OSA can occur on its own, it is often found in people who are obese, have high blood pressure, or have diabetes. CSA is typically seen in individuals with certain neurological or heart conditions.

Snoring – Snoring is a common symptom of OSA due to the airway being partially closed, but it’s less frequent and usually not as loud in central sleep apnea.

A. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

A. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. During an episode of OSA, the airway becomes partially or completely blocked, preventing air from flowing into your lungs. This lack of oxygen triggers the brain to briefly wake you up to gasp for air and restart breathing.

Common causes of obstructive sleep apnea include excessive weight, weak throat muscles, enlarged tonsils, age, inflammation of the airway due to smoking, and genetics from the family. Also, OSA can be due to health issues such as congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, polycystic ovary syndrome, hormonal disorders, prior strokes, type 2 diabetes, and chronic lung diseases such as asthma.

Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea include:

  • Daytime sleepiness and fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering things
  • Loud snoring, often interrupted by gasping or snorting sounds
  • Morning headaches
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Impotence in men
  • Frequent waking up to urinate at night
  • Dry mouth and sore throat upon waking

How to Diagnose Obstructive Sleep Apnea

How to Diagnose Obstructive Sleep Apnea

If you notice any symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, you need a combination of a medical history evaluation, physical examination, and specific sleep studies to diagnose the disorder.

Start by discussing with an experienced sleep apnea doctor to examine the symptoms, your medical history, and family history. You may also need a physical examination to check for signs that increase the risk of OSA, such as obesity, increased neck circumference, a narrow airway, enlarged tonsils, etc.

The doctor may also ask about your sleep habits, quality of sleep, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Often, they might ask a bed partner or family member about your sleep behavior, such as snoring, gasping, or pauses in breathing.

If there are significant signs of OSA, the doctor may conduct a sleep study for more accurate and precise results.

There are two main types of sleep studies:

Polysomnography (PSG): This is an in-lab sleep study which is the gold standard for diagnosing OSA. During a polysomnography, they connect you to equipment that monitors your heart, lung, brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep. This study can help in determining the severity of sleep apnea and ruling out other sleep disorders.

Home Sleep Apnea Test (HSAT): This is a simpler and less expensive option than a PSG. It involves wearing a portable monitor at home that measures your heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow, and breathing patterns.

Treatment Options For Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Lack of appropriate treatment for obstructive sleep apnea may put you at life-threatening risks like poor quality of life, comorbidity, motor vehicle crashes, and increased health care utilization.

The first step to treatment is usually a consultation with your doctor or a sleep specialist. They will discuss your symptoms, medical history, and risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea. Your doctor may recommend a sleep study to confirm the diagnosis. Once your OSA is diagnosed, you will discuss with your doctor the best treatment options for your case.

The most viable options for obstructive sleep apnea treatment include:

  1. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
  2. Auto-adjusting Positive Airway Pressure (APAP)
  3. Oral Appliance Therapy
  4. Surgery
  5. Lifestyle Changes

B. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

B. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Central sleep apnea occurs due to a lack of signal from the brain to the muscles that control breathing. Unlike obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea is a problem with the central nervous system’s control of breathing.

Central sleep apnea tends to be less common than OSA, according to the National Library of Medicine. Common symptoms include daytime sleepiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, headaches, and mood swings. However, unlike OSA, snoring is usually not common with central sleep apnea patients.

Common Causes of Central Sleep Apnea:

  • Underlying medical conditions such as Heart failure, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and certain neurological disorders can disrupt the brain’s control of breathing, leading to CSA.
  • Medications such as opioids and sedatives, can suppress the respiratory drive and contribute to CSA.
  • High altitude: Periodic breathing during periods of sleep at high altitudes can reduce oxygen levels and trigger CSA in susceptible individuals.
  • Brain injuries: Head trauma or tumors affecting the brainstem can interfere with breathing control, leading to CSA.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Central Sleep Apnea

Similar to OSA, a sleep study like polysomnography and Home Sleep Apnea Test (HSAT) can best diagnose CSA.

Effective treatment options for Central Sleep Apnea include:

  1. Oxygen therapy
  2. Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) therapy
  3. Central sleep apnea medications
  4. Lifestyle changes

What is Sleep Apnea?

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that causes repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. These pauses can last for a few seconds to a minute or more and occur multiple times per hour throughout the night. 

A study by ScienceDirect shows that men are more likely than women to have sleep apnea, especially as they get older. This difference can be attributed to a combination of factors related to anatomy, hormones, and lifestyle.

Considering anatomy, men generally have narrower airways and larger neck circumferences compared to women. This makes their airways more prone to collapse during sleep, leading to apnea episodes.

In terms of hormonal factors, estrogen, which is a female sex hormone, has protective effects on the upper airway. It strengthens muscles and keeps tissues more flexible, reducing the risk of collapse. Men have lower levels of estrogen, making them more vulnerable to apnea.

As per lifestyle, obesity puts additional pressure on the airway and increases the risk of apnea. Also, smoking irritates the airway and can worsen sleep apnea symptoms. Men are more likely to be smokers than women and are also more likely than women to be obese.

The Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome

There are cases where the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea seems to lead to central sleep apnea. This is referred to as the Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome, also known as Treatment-Emergent Central Sleep Apnea.

In this condition, a person initially exhibits symptoms of OSA. But when the obstructive events are treated, typically with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, the person then seems to develop central sleep apnea.

Treating Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome can be challenging because the standard CPAP therapy for OSA may not be effective for the central apnea component. So, to manage treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, you may require a specialized approach, usually involving a sleep specialist. The treatment may include adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV), bilevel positive airway pressure, or other advanced forms of positive airway pressure therapy.

Tips for Living With Sleep Apnea

Tips for Living With Sleep Apnea

If you are facing sleep apnea, whether obstructive (OSA) or central (CSA), there are certain steps you can take to manage the condition and improve your sleep condition. This is possible through proactive lifestyle changes, long-term strategies, and valuable support resources. Here are some suggestions to help you better manage this condition.

  • Losing weight, even a small amount, can significantly reduce airway pressure and improve sleep apnea symptoms.
  • Establish a regular sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.
  • Avoid sleeping on your back, as this can worsen airway obstruction. 
  • Regular physical activity can improve sleep quality and reduce sleep apnea severity. 
  • Quitting smoking is highly beneficial for overall health and sleep quality.
  • Practice relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing to manage stress and promote restful sleep.
  • Raising the head of your bed by 4-6 inches can help improve drainage and reduce airway obstruction while sleeping.
  • Avoiding heavy meals before bed
  • If your doctor recommends positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy or other treatment options, consistent use is crucial for long-term success.
  • Schedule regular appointments with your doctor or sleep specialist to monitor your progress and adjust treatment as needed.
  • Maintain good sleep habits and continue implementing lifestyle changes to support healthy sleep patterns in the long run.
  • Connect with other people living with sleep apnea through support groups or online communities.

Looking for a Sleep Apnea Doctor?

Generally, sleep apnea disrupts sleep patterns, leading to poor sleep quality. However, untreated sleep apnea, particularly obstructive sleep apnea may lead to an increased risk of heart problems, including high blood pressure, heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, and stroke.

Hence, if you notice symptoms of sleep apnea, do not hesitate to reach out to us at Bedford Dental Group for immediate medical attention. Even if you don’t have enough money now, you should not be worried as we provide easy payment plans to help reduce the financial burden of the treatment. Take the first step today by booking a free consultation with us!

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