Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by a pause in breathing. This pause in breathing is involuntary – and the person is not even aware that at one moment in time, he forgot to breathe.
This breathing abnormality is caused by two things – and such a cause determines the kind of sleep apnea that the person is suffering from.
Obtrusive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
This type of apnea is the most common. As the name suggests, this occurs when there is an “obstruction” on the airway.
When you sleep, the muscles in your upper airway relax. You know that when muscles relax, they tend to collapse. Indeed, this is a natural occurrence. But there are dilator muscles that work to keep them from collapsing, so that the air passage remains clear. When the dilator muscles don’t do their work effectively, that’s when you have difficulty breathing, and sleep apnea occurs. Sleep Health
OSA is treated with the use of CPAP machines. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure. As such, CPAP machines provide a certain level of pressure – and keep it in that level – to prevent the muscles from blocking the airway.
The air pressure required by most patients ranges from 6 to 14 cm H20. Typical CPAP machines can deliver pressures at 4 to 20 cm H20. Of course, the pressure to be used in CPAP machines has to be determined by a specialist. This is established after a series of tests have been conducted. This is the reason why there has to be CPAP trials for new patients – to determine the “appropriateness” of the pressure introduced to them. Incorrect pressure could lead do more damage – than good – to the sleep apnea sufferer.
CPAP machines also come with masks to act as an interface between the person’s airway and the source of the airflow pressure. Masks could either be nasal or full-face. CPAP full-face masks – in Toronto or elsewhere – cover the whole face, while nasal masks cover only the nose.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
This type of sleep apnea is caused by an aberration in the central nervous system (CNS). Simply put, the brain fails to properly signal your airways to breathe. The CSA is the less common type, and the more dangerous one. In contrast to OSA patients, those suffering from CSA wake up as a result of reduced levels of oxygen in the brain.
Of course, if you don’t breathe, you will have less supply of oxygen, and more of carbon dioxide. The lack in oxygen will signal your lungs to suck in air, and for you to be able to do this, you have to wake up.