Home Sleep Apnea What Causes Sleep Apnea?

What Causes Sleep Apnea?


When talking about what causes sleep apnea, I have to make it clear that there are two types of sleep apnea and their causes are different. One type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and the other one is central sleep apnea (CSA). Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common one while central sleep apnea only the problem of less than 15 percent of the cases. We will go through the causes of OSA first then CSA later.

Causes of Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstruction – Cause Of OSA

Obstructive sleep apnea is the symptom you stop breathing while sleeping because of the obstruction in your throat. This situation happens when your muscles are relaxed (including muscle tissue around your throat) and narrow the airway. When you inhale, the airway will be closed so you will stop breathing for a moment. When you stop breathing, the oxygen level in blood decrease and your brain sense the danger and wake you up to fix the problem. While these awakenings quite short so many people don’t remember them. In addition, when the airway is narrow, each time you breathe out, the air will flow through the narrow passage and create vibration, which is also known as snoring. The causes for a narrow airway could be: your throat structure

Some people have to deal with sleep apnea when they were a child. Their reason is their tonsil and adenoids grow faster than the growth of the throat. As a result, the big tonsils and adenoids will make the airway narrow, cause sleep apnea.

Muscle relaxation

When you drink alcohol or use drugs that contain muscle relaxants, your airway will be narrowed. As the muscle relaxed, it will collapse and narrow the airway.

Being overweight

If you are overweight, you have a higher chance of suffering from obstructive sleep apnea as the reason mentioned above. Your airway will easily be narrowed by excessive tissue around the neck. Consider losing weight to improve the situation.

Now we are done with causes of obstructive sleep apnea, let’s head to central sleep apnea cause.

Causes of central sleep apnea

Different from obstructive sleep apnea which is caused by physical reasons, central sleep apnea is caused by the malfunction of your brain. There is a part of your brain control the breathing activity. In central sleep apnea, this part doesn’t function properly. It doesn’t provide the signals for the lung to breathe. As a result, the person with central sleep apnea will stop breathing. People with central sleep apnea usually wake up during the night and find it hard to get back to sleep. Generally, central sleep apnea is caused by heart diseases. Treatment for central sleep apnea, thus, will be quite different from treatments of obstructive sleep apnea.


The above are the possible causes of sleep apnea. However, not all people have the same causes. It’s recommended for you to meet your doctor to do a diagnosis and find what are the real causes in your case. Treatment will be much more effective after finding the exact causes of sleep apnea.


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