Mixed Sleep Apnea Basics and Options for Treatment

Mixed sleep apnea isn’t something many people know about. This dangerous sleeping disorder occurs when an individual suffers from both central sleep apnea (CSA) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This means they face the control challenges of breathing while asleep, in addition to airway obstruction. This dangerous combination can often be difficult to diagnose and treat. This is why it’s imperative to seek out diagnosis and treatment if you suspect you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. When left untreated, it can shave years off of your life.

The Bethesda Center for Family and Cosmetic Dentistry cares about our patients. We help many individuals suffering from sleep disorders with our extensive training and expertise. Our goal is to help all people suffering from sleep disorders live a long, healthy life.

What is Mixed Sleep Apnea?

We know mixed sleep apnea occurs when both CSA and OSA are present, but what does this mean for the patient? To fully understand the complications of the sleeping disorders, we must first understand how we breathe while we’re asleep. Structures in the neck referred to as carotid bodies detect the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood as it passes through the carotid arteries. The information travels to the brainstem, which in turn sends the signal to breathe to your body.

During sleep, we don’t breathe as deeply. This results in increased CO2 levels and lower oxygen levels. Our carotid bodies regulate our breathing to create a balance during sleep. With CSA there is a problem with the breathing process during sleep. Rather than achieving balance, our CO2 and oxygen levels are out of balance, eventually ceasing breathing efforts entirely.

This process imbalance is much different than the problem facing people who suffer from OSA. In these individuals, the airway becomes partially or completely obstructed during sleep. This causes a similar interruption in breathing which results in lower oxygen levels. Patients will wake for short moments to restart their breathing several times per night. This results in poor sleep along with excessive daytime drowsiness and other health issues. With mixed sleep apnea, you suffer from both CSA and OSA. In most cases, the unusual breathing patterns associated with CSA result in the obstructed airway related to OSA.

Mixed Sleep Apnea Facts

OSA is much more common than CSA and mixed sleep apnea. However, recent studies say up to 15% of patients suffering from either CSA or OSA actually suffer from both. Often, these patients have family members that have also had mixed sleep apnea. Most are male, and they are often individuals who’ve experienced heart failure, stroke, or renal failure.

The best way to determine if you or a loved one suffers from mixed sleep apnea is through a sleep study. The sleep study evaluates everything about your night time breathing habits. The data is analyzed by a sleep specialist then presented to your health care provider for analysis. However, even a sleep study may miss the subtle cues of CSA.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with OSA, but you feel like your CPAP machine is ineffective, you may want to consider getting tested for mixed sleep apnea. Many patients with mixed sleep apnea feel like they’re fighting their CPAP. This is because CPAP treatment isn’t ideal for those suffering from the mixed form of the disorder. You should always let your doctor know if you feel that your sleep disorder treatment isn’t working.

Treatment for Mixed Sleep Apnea

The only approved treatment option for mixed sleep apnea is adaptive serv-ventilation, also known as ASV. This is a special device which tracks your breathing to create equal and opposite air pressure. When the rhythm properly matches the patient’s breathing, it is very effective.

Your health care provider can provide you with additional information on the benefits and disadvantages of every type of sleep disorder treatment. There’s no one treatment option that is best or every patient. Some patients do better with a combination of treatment options. Work with your health care provider and sleep specialist to find out which treatment option works best for your unique sleeping disorder.

If you haven’t been diagnosed with mixed sleep apnea but you are still struggling with your CPAP treatment then you may want to consider alternative treatment methods. Difficulties with CPAP therapy aren’t uncommon. About half of CPAP users have difficulties acclimating to the treatment. As a result, they either never use the machine or they stop using it within six months. Many patients are finding that oral appliances are more convenient and more comfortable when it comes to keeping their airway open through the night. A trained and certified dentist can create a custom oral appliance just for you.

Call the Bethesda Center for Family and Cosmetic Dentistry at (301) 530-3600 for more information on treatment options for OSA and mixed sleep apnea.