Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) versus central sleep apnea (CSA)

by Americare Respiratory Services

When people talk about sleep apnea in general, they are almost always referring to obstructive sleep apnea or OSA.  This is the most common type of sleep apnea, but there is another type that deserves discussion.  Central sleep apnea (CSA) also cuts off your air supply when you sleep, but for an entirely different reason. 

People who have OSA are physically unable to breathe due to an obstruction in the upper airway, as shown in the diagram.  The obstruction may inhibit normal breathing for a few seconds, but if it lasts much longer, there can be serious consequences. 

People who have CSA stop trying to breathe all together.  Instead of an obstruction in the airway, the brain stops signaling the body to breathe.  It is a disorder of the central nervous system. The problem can happen repetitively throughout the night, interrupting your breathing rhythm. 

Some people may wake up with a sleep apnea episode occurs, but most do not.  This is why both types of sleep apnea are very serious medical conditions.  Sleep apnea is associated with diabetes as well.  Fortunately, OSA and CSA are treatable. The most common treatment for both is a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure), which provides a continuous flow of oxygen to prevent your airway from closing unexpectedly.  

If you have symptoms of loud, irregular snoring and sleep deprivation, you might want to take our sleep quiz to see if you are at risk for sleep apnea.  A sleep medicine specialist or pulmonologist can do the appropriate testing to determine if you have OSA or CSA.  Your doctor will prescribe the appropriate treatment, which may include medication, lifestyle modifications, CPAP therapy, and more. 

Americare Respiratory Services is the leading provider of CPAP and BiPAP machines in the US. We are here to answer any questions you may have about CPAP equipment, including insurance information, maintenance, and repairs.