What Are The Three Types Of Sleep Apnea: Ultimate Guide

three types of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that can be hard to diagnose and affects a lot of people all over the world. It is something that doesn’t discriminate and can happen to adults, the elderly, children, and even babies. 

While its symptoms are not particularly frightening, the effects they can have on your overall health are. 

Sleep apnea can slowly create a lot of health problems for those who suffer from it. In order to treat sleep apnea, one must first begin to understand what type of sleep apnea they suffer from.

There are 3 different types of sleep apnea, and they are obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea. If you would like to know more about each type, how they differentiate from each other, and the types of treatments available, then keep reading.

How Does It Affect The Body?

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder where you lose oxygen as you sleep. It is usually caused by some sort of blockage in the breathing airways. There are many different factors that weigh in as to how the blockage is caused. 

It can be caused by outside forces such as smoking, drinking, or sleeping pills. It can also be caused by neurological problems where the tongue is sitting too far back in the mouth. The blockage then causes the person to lose oxygen as they sleep and can cause them to wake up choking, coughing, or gasping for air.

This can happen up to 4 times in an hour! 

It results in a troublesome night’s sleep. The next day, people can feel irritated, fatigued, and have trouble concentrating on the smallest task. It can also lead to diabetes, heart problems, and much more serious ailments.

3 Types Of Sleep Apnea

There are three different types of sleep apnea. They are obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea. While they are different from each other in some ways, one thing remains the same, and that is the trouble people have breathing at night. 

Below, we will go over each kind of sleep apnea, the differences between them, and the different types of treatment available for each one. If you feel that you might be suffering from sleep apnea, it is advised you get diagnosed by a professional as soon as possible.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. While it is not specifically caused by obesity, it has become one of the main reasons people are diagnosed with this type of sleep apnea. 

Obstructive sleep apnea is when the soft tissues in the throat, such as the tongue and tonsils, become too relaxed. This blocks the airway and causes the person to snore and eventually wake up from lack of oxygen. 

Common treatments for this type of sleep apnea include using breathing machines or mechanisms that force air into the lungs and keep the jaw in place. A more extreme type of treatment is undergoing an operation to remove some of the soft tissue in the throat.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea is not as common as obstructive sleep apnea, and can also be quite difficult for doctors to diagnose properly. This is because the symptoms are usually the same as obstructive sleep apnea. 


The main difference between obstructive and central sleep apnea is that central sleep apnea is caused by a neurological deformation. Basically, the signals that your brain sends to your breathing muscles are not working as they should. This type of sleep apnea usually affects people that have other underlying illnesses such as brain infection, Parkinson’s, obesity, and more. 

While breathing machines can help with the sleep apnea itself, doctors will usually want to treat the underlying health issues that may be causing this type of sleep apnea. Once they have treated or cured the other ailments, most patients will also be rid of this type of sleep apnea.

Complex Sleep Apnea

Complex sleep apnea may be the most difficult to diagnose as it is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Most doctors only come to realize that the patient may have both once they have administered treatment for one. 

With that being said, there is still not a lot of information out there about complex sleep apnea and why it happens. So, treatments may vary depending on the doctor. Usually, doctors will run a lot of other tests to determine if there are any other underlying issues that may be causing this problem.

Treatments Available

As mentioned earlier, the most common type of treatment for sleep apnea that your doctor might prescribe is a breathing machine. There are also other types of breathing strips and nasal sprays that you can easily buy at your local pharmacy. 

On top of this, there are some useful home remedies available for those who are looking to ease their sleep apnea symptoms. Acupuncture has been used in the east to ease blockages in the body and has shown some promising results.

Some other useful home remedies include sleeping in a colder room, sleeping on your side, giving up alcohol, quitting smoking, and bringing a humidifier into the bedroom to soothe the throat and make breathing easier as you sleep.


While the symptoms of sleep apnea can be mild in nature, if left untreated, it can be quite dangerous. Sleep apnea can cause serious ailments such as heart palpitations, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, heart attacks, and more. 

Not only does it bring serious ailments, but it also drastically decreases your quality of life. Without a proper night’s rest, you may find yourself feeling lethargic throughout the day and have difficulties going about your daily life.

Understanding the differences in each type of sleep apnea will also help sufferers pick the right course of treatment. Getting diagnosed by a medical professional is crucial and life-saving. If you think that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, make sure to book an appointment with your doctor to start treatment.


Dan was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2017 when he was only 32 years old. He has been using a BIPAP machine for his treatment. He hopes to provide a patient's perspective on the sleep apnea experience. Dan lives in Tampa with his girlfriend and 2 dogs.

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