What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is when your breathing stops at night. For people with severe sleep apnea, it can happen hundreds of times a night, even though they may not know it. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of the condition–about 98% of people with sleep apnea have obstructive sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, your airway collapses during sleep, cutting off your supply of air.
In central sleep apnea, your brain stops telling your body to breathe. You just don’t breathe until your brain realizes you’re suffocating.
In either form, an apnea episode stops when the brain senses low oxygen and makes your body wake up enough to resume breathing. It also tells the heart to pump harder to try to supply the brain with more oxygen.
People can have both forms of sleep apnea at once. This is sometimes described as complex sleep apnea.