OSA and CSA: do you know the difference?


We all know by now that the general definition of sleep apnea is when you stop breathing while you sleep. But did you know that sleep apnea actually comes in two different forms?

The two main types of sleep apnea are called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). While they are both forms of sleep apnea, the cause for the pause in breathing is actually different, and they each have different characteristics associated with them.

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the most common form of sleep apnea, occurs when your airway gets blocked, either completely or partially, causing you to stop breathing. When breathing resumes, there is often a loud gasp or snort, which can interfere with a deep sleep. It is often overweight, middle-aged men who get sleep apnea, especially this type. The CPAP machine, in addition to other lifestyle changes, is the best form of treatment for OSA.
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) occurs when your brain doesn’t send the proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing. This is different from OSA as there is not a blockage in the airway, but a neurological issue that causes you to stop breathing in your sleep. CSA is often brought on by other medical conditions and it is less common than OSA.

The main difference is that with OSA, the effort is made to try and inhale as you stop breathing, yet no air can get into the lungs. With CSA, no effort is made at all by the body to restart your breathing.

Experts also acknowledge that it is not uncommon to have both forms of sleep apnea. So this is why it is important to seek help from your doctor if you think you have either form of sleep apnea.