Sleep Apnea 101

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Approximately 1 in every 15 Americans suffers from sleep apnea. This amounts to a total of around 15 million people, and that’s just in the United States. It’s a common ailment that can result in poor sleep quality, health problems, and even a shortened lifespan if left untreated. What causes sleep apnea depends on what type of sleep apnea you have.

What Are the Types of Sleep Apnea?

There are three types of sleep apnea. All three are characterized by breathing stopping during the night, but the reason for that stoppage differs.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a type of sleep apnea that occurs when something blocks the airway, obstructing the passage of air. This obstruction could be muscles in the throat that have relaxed too much or the tongue falling back into the airway. This is the most common type of sleep apnea.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea occurs when breathing stops because the brain isn’t sending the right signals to the muscles controlling the breathing process.

Complex Sleep Apnea

Complex sleep apnea is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. It’s also known as treatment-emergent sleep apnea because it occurs when central sleep apnea develops due to using a CPAP, BiPAP, or APAP machine to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

What Causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by something obstructing the airway and preventing the flow of air into the lungs. This obstruction is usually the muscles in the throat relaxing so that they narrow the airway so that air can’t flow down it. In adults, the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is obesity. In children, it’s most often enlarged tonsils or having a large overbite.

How Does Obesity Cause Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Not everyone who is obese or overweight will develop obstructive sleep apnea and not all sleep apnea sufferers are obese, but there is a link between the two. 50% of those with obstructive sleep apnea are also obese. This is because fat deposits in the throat can narrow the airway, increasing the likelihood that it could become obstructed.

What Causes Central Sleep Apnea?

There’s no one clear cause of central sleep apnea, but several diseases and medications have been linked to an increased risk of the condition. Sleeping in a location that is at a high altitude can also increase the risk of central sleep apnea. Additionally, being treated for obstructive sleep apnea with a CPAP machine can cause central sleep apnea to occur.

What Illnesses Can Cause Central Sleep Apnea?

The following illnesses can increase your risk of central sleep apnea:

  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney disease

What Medications Can Cause Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea has been associated with opiates in particular. Opiates are highly addictive medications that are usually prescribed to treat pain. Fentanyl and hydrocodone are two examples of opiates.

Do You Have Sleep Apnea?

Contact us for an alternative treatment to CPAP machines.

Contact us

Call us

(904) 906-6007


1700 Eagle Harbor Pkwy, Suite 7
Fleming Island, FL 32003

View Map


Monday 9am- 4pm
Tuesday 9am- 4pm
Wednesday 10am - 5pm
Thursday 9am- 4pm
Friday By Appointment
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed

Schedule Your Sleep, Sleep Apnea, or Snoring Consultation