Types of sleep apnea - ResMed Middle-East

Types of sleep apnea

There are three main types of sleep apnea:

    • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
    • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
    • Mixed sleep apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea, making up 84% of sleep apnea diagnoses.1

In most cases of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, air stops flowing to the lungs because of a blockage (or obstruction) in the upper airway-that is, in the nose or throat. Partially closed airway diagram ResMed

The upper airway could become blocked due to:

  • The muscles relaxing too much during sleep, which blocks sufficient air from getting through*
  • The weight of your neck narrowing the airway
  • Inflamed tonsils, or other temporary reasons
  • Structural reasons, like the shape of the nose, neck or jaw

Read more about Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is rare in general,1 and can be caused by certain drug therapies used in pain management, such as opioids, as well as heart failure, or a disease or injury involving the brain, such as:

  • Stroke
  • Brain tumor
  • Viral brain infection
  • Chronic respiratory disease

In cases of CSA the airway is actually open but air stops flowing to the lungs because no effort is made to breathe. This is basically because the communication between the brain and the body has been lost, so the automatic action of breathing stops.

Those with CSA don’t often snore, so the condition sometimes goes unnoticed.

Noticeably, in case of heart failure, CSA is very frequent, with up to 1 patient over 4 being affected.2 CSA also has a specific pattern in Heart Failure, known as Cheyne-Stokes Respiration (CSR).

People with CSR have an abnormal, cyclic pattern of breathing that alternates deeper and sometimes faster breathing with a temporary stop in breathing (apnea).

Together, Central Sleep Apnea and Cheyne-Stokes respiration are known as CSA-CSR, which occurs in 30 to 50% of people with heart failure.1

Read more about Central Sleep Apnea

Mixed sleep apnea

This is a combination of both OSA (where there is a blockage or obstruction in the upper airway) and CSA (where no effort is made to breathe). Your doctor can help you understand more about this if you need to.

If you have any concerns that you may have any type of sleep apnea, please consult your doctor.


  1. Morgenthaler TI, Kagramanov V, Hanak V, Decker PA. Complex sleep apnoea syndrome: is it a unique clinical syndrome? Sleep 2006;29(9):1203-9

  2. Bitter T. et al, Eur. J of Heart F. 2009