What are the different types of sleep apnea?

Find out about the three different types of sleep apnea here.

There are three types of sleep apnea.

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea is by far the most common type of sleep apnea. It happens when your upper airways become blocked or partially blocked when you sleep. The blockage is usually in your nose or throat. Common obstructive sleep apnea causes are:

  • Being overweight (due to additional fat around your neck and airway)
  • Having inflamed tonsils or adenoids
  • Having a blocked nose due to an allergy or cold
  • The structure or shape of your nose, neck or jaw
  • Using sleeping tablets or sedatives
  • Being a smoker
  • Sleeping on your back

Loud snoring, gasping for breath and daytime tiredness are common warning signs of obstructive sleep apnea, although some people with obstructive sleep apnea don't snore much at all.  

2. Central sleep apnea

Central sleep apnea is more uncommon.1 It happens when your brain doesn’t tell your body to take a breath. Because central sleep apnea doesn’t cause much in the way of snoring, it often goes unnoticed.

3. Mixed sleep apnea

If you have a mixture of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea, then you have mixed sleep apnea.



  1. Morgenthaler TI et al. Complex sleep apnea syndrome: is it a unique clinical syndrome? Sleep 2006;29(9):1203-9.