The Two paths of Sleep Apnea
Even though most affected people have one type of sleep apnea over the other, it is not unheard of to have a certain extent of each.
Type 1: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
This is the more common of the two where your throat muscles relax during sleep. So much so, that the passage of air to and from the lungs becomes blocked. When this happens, the autonomic nervous system messages the brain which then wakes up briefly to reopen the airways and then usually tries to return to sleep. This comes in three levels of severity, all associated with the number of times your body is deprived of oxygen over an hour time frame.
Type 2: Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
Less common but the opposite is occurring. In this type, your brain neglects to keep the airway open during sleep. Muscles relax, but not too much so that you cannot breathe. In broad terms, CSA is most often triggered by other medical conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, brain infections or disorders, and stroke victims. In can also be brought on as a side effect to opioid or narcotics medicines.
How does this affect children?
In most cases, the diagnosis will be Obstructive Sleep Apnea caused by larger than average tonsils or adenoids. The solution is usually to remove these somewhat superfluous tissues and 80% of cases are resolved. For the rest, a more comprehensive “Sleep Study” should be undertaken which will typically identify the cause and appropriate treatment.
Importantly, if Sleep Apnea in children is left untreated, it can lead to learning, behavior and growth deficiencies, and in rare cases heart problems.