The Different Types of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a medical condition that causes you to stop and start breathing repeatedly throughout the night. It is one of the most common sleep disorders and often goes undiagnosed. If left untreated, it can lead to daytime tiredness and loud snoring, or more serious issues like congestive heart failure and high blood pressure. There are three different types of sleep apnea with key differences: obstructive, central, and complex.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The most common subtype of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA causes your throat muscles to intermittently relax and block your airway. As a result, people with this condition can stop breathing anywhere between five times an hour to 100 or more while they sleep. 

OSA is divided into three categories, based on the number of times a patient stops breathing:

  • Mild – The patient experiences 5-14 breathing interruptions an hour.
  • Moderate – The patient experiences 15-30 breathing interruptions an hour.
  • Severe – The patient experiences 30 or more breathing interruptions an hour.

During these episodes, the muscles in the diaphragm and chest work harder than normal to open the airway back up. This negatively affects sleep patterns and the flow of oxygen to vital organs, leading to abnormal heart rhythms.


To treat this form of sleep apnea, you must fix the obstruction that blocks the airway during sleep. Sometimes, changing your sleep position is all that is required. Other people find that becoming more physically active, losing weight, and stopping smoking can reduce the negative symptoms. You can also improve this condition medically through a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, surgery, oral appliances, and certain medications. 

At Smith Dentalworks, we treat mild-to-moderate OSA with the Vivos System. This treatment option is an innovative and pain-free custom oral appliance that you wear while you sleep. Unlike alternative sleep apnea treatments that require lifetime use, the Vivos System corrects the deficiencies that lead to OSA and only requires you to wear it for a period of 12 to 24 months. 

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea (CSA), a less common form of the condition, occurs when a person’s brain fails to signal the muscles in the body responsible for breathing. CSA is typically caused by a medical condition that affects the brain stem, including brain infections and strokes. It can also be idiopathic, meaning that there is no identifiable underlying disease. This type of sleep apnea is more difficult to diagnose and treat than OSA.


To treat central sleep apnea, you must first treat the existing condition that is causing it. For instance, treating heart problems or switching to a different medication or dosage can often alleviate your symptoms. A few other ways to treat it are through a CPAP, bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP), adaptive-servo ventilation (ASV), phrenic nerve stimulation, and certain medications.

Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome

It is also possible to have both obstructive and central sleep apnea simultaneously. This is known as complex sleep apnea syndrome, treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, or mixed sleep apnea. Patients with this condition may seem to have OSA at first, but find out they have CSA as well when their symptoms are not fully addressed by the use of a CPAP.


Treating complex sleep apnea usually involves a combination of treatments for both OSA and CSA, such as treating the underlying condition while also using a CPAP or other positive airway pressure devices.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment in Oro Valley

If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, Smith Dentalworks is here to help you. Our sleep apnea treatment, the Vivos System, can correct the deficiencies that lead to OSA in as little as 12 months, allowing you to enjoy a healthy life without further intervention.

To get started on relieving your sleep apnea symptoms, contact Smith Dentalworks today.