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Sleep apnea is a condition that affects an estimated 21 million Americans a year. Sleep apnea cases range from mild to severe and, if left untreated, can adversely affect your sleep quality and physical health.

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What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s upper airway becomes blocked, triggering abnormal breathing during sleep. These abnormalities range from frequent pauses in breathing to a full-out blockage that interrupts sleep. There are three types of sleep apnea, including obstructive, central, and mixed, with such as snoring, dry mouth, excessive daytime sleepiness, and insomnia.

To diagnose sleep apnea, medical professionals use a polysomnogram, or sleep study, in which limb movements, heart rate, breathing, and oxygen levels are monitored in the blood as the patient sleeps.

3 Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three types of sleep apnea:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA, the most common type of sleep apnea, is defined by a physical blockage in the back of the throat, usually caused by poor mouth anatomy or narrow air passages due to neck circumference.
  2. Central sleep apnea (CSA). CSA is not caused by a physical blockage, but by many different disorders that affect the brain stem’s function, which, in turn, affects breathing abilities.
  3. Mixed sleep apnea. Also known as complex sleep apnea, this type of sleep apnea is a mix of OSA and CSA. Mixed sleep apnea episodes usually begin with partial upper airway blockage during sleep, like OSA.
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