Those who suffer from sleep apnea experience frequent pauses in their breathing during sleep. Here is a brief explanation of the causes of sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, also called OSA. OSA is caused by a collapse of the upper airway. The collapsed airway makes it difficult to get air into the lungs. Obstructive sleep apnea is most common in men, and is more common in those who are overweight, particularly if they sleep on their backs.
If someone who is not overweight is suffering from OSA there is likely some kind of abnormality in the lower face, such as an unusually small chin, an overbite, or a large tongue.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
Central sleep apnea, CSA, is relatively rare compared to obstructive sleep apnea. CSA happens when the brain doesn't send normal signals to the chest to breathe properly during sleep. Typically, the causes of CSA are: severe heart disease, or neurologic disease (that is, a disease of the brain). Particularly strong pain medications like morphine and other narcotics, are also known to cause central sleep apnea.
Mixed Sleep Apnea (MSA)
Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the first two types. Mixed sleep apnea begins as central sleep apnea, but gradually develops into obstructive sleep apnea over time.