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Sleep specialists decide if your sleep apnea is mild, moderate, or severe by counting how many times your breathing stops each hour. The times when your breathing stops are called “apneas” or “events”. They can count these events using polysomnography or portable home monitoring.
There are other things doctors consider when they are deciding how severe your sleep apnea is. Some other considerations are:
In central sleep apnea, your brain forgets to tell your muscles that you need to breathe. Your throat and airway are normal- it’s your brain that has the trouble. Central sleep apnea is not as common as obstructive sleep apnea. Often people with central sleep apnea have another medical condition, such as heart failure. Treating their other medical condition can improve the central sleep apnea. Some newer devices may improve central sleep apnea.
It is possible to have both obstructive and central sleep apnea. This is called mixed sleep apnea.
When a person doesn’t breathe enough during the day and night to take in the oxygen they need, this is called is called Sleep-hypoventilation syndrome. Hypoventiation means to breathe less than is necessary to keep the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood normal. Sleep Hypoventilation is linked to obesity.
The first choice of treatment for sleep-hypoventilation syndrome is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). If a person’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels don’t improve with CPAP, the doctor will recommend a more sophisticated machine, like a bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machine.
In Mixed or Complex sleep apnea a person has a blend of both central and obstructive sleep apnea. Each episode usually begins when your brain forgets to tell your muscles that you need to breathe (central sleep apnea). Then your body tries to breathe, but the airway is blocked (obstructive sleep apnea).
In Mixed or complex sleep apnea a person has a blend of both central and obstructive sleep apnea. Each episode usually begins when your brain forgets to tell your muscles that you need to breathe (central sleep apnea). Then your body tries to breathe, but the airway is blocked (obstructive sleep apnea).
Yes, it’s safe for people with sleep apnea to travel, as long they continue their treatment. Sleep apnea does not take a vacation. You need to take your CPAP with you when you travel.
If you are flying, bring your CPAP machine as carry-on luggage. To make getting through security as smooth as possible, bring a letter from your doctor explaining what your CPAP machine is, and that it’s medically necessary for you to use it.
The letter from the doctor should say:
Check about the type of electrical supply in the country where you are traveling. You may need a converter. You may also want to bring a battery pack.
You should bring your CPAP with you everywhere you sleep. If you go to the hospital, bring your CPAP machine and use it.
You may also want to read our FAQs on CPAP treatment.
This content was reviewed on October 15th, 2014 by The Canadian Thoracic Society’s Sleep Disordered Breathing Clinical Assembly.