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Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders

Posted On November 24, 2015
November 24, 2015

Of course, we all know that breathing is essential for life. And so is sleep. When there are issues with breathing and sleeping, life can be adversely affected. Unfortunately, problems with both of these physiological functions is fairly common. In fact, there are quite a number of sleep-related breathing disorders.

Sleep-related Breathing Disorders Defined

As far as sleep-related breathing disorders go, number one happens to be obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This disorder has an interesting history. An obscure Charles Dickens novel, “The Pickwick Papers,” described a condition that sounded a lot like sleep apnea. Subsequently, a 20th-Century physician coined the first name given to what we now call sleep apnea, Pickwickian syndrome.

Then there was a long gap in the history of sleep apnea, the problem that afflicts people with an obstruction to proper breathing at night. It wasn’t until 1965 that medical literature next mentioned what became known as OSA, which is defined by pauses in breathing that can be just a few seconds to minutes, and occur as little as five to greater than 30 times per hour. The severity of this disease can be classified as mild, moderate or severe, depending upon the number of times per hour these episodes occur during the course of the night.

Other Sleep Apneas

In addition to OSA, there are two other types of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea (CSA) and mixed sleep apnea. With CSA, the brain of affected individuals misinterprets the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide being inhaled and exhaled. As a result, breathing rates slow down to dangerously low levels. With mixed sleep apnea, the individual has both OSA and CSA at the same time.

Symptoms for OSA and CSA are similar (other than snoring):

  • Fatigue
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Memory issues
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia

There is yet another type of sleep apnea, complex sleep apnea (CompSA). Discovered by Mayo Clinic researchers, CompSA or “treatment-emergent central sleep apnea” is found when certain individuals who seemed as though they had OSA (on average 20 to 30 pauses in breathing every hour) did not have an improvement in their breathing when treatment was initiated. Although therapy helps to remove the obstruction, aspects of CSA take over and still disrupt breathing.

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