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What are Breathing-Related Sleep Disorders?

Breathing-related sleep disorders include:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea Hypopnea
    Also referred to as obstructive sleep apnea, this sleep disorder occurs when the throat muscles intermittently relax and block one’s airway during sleep. This condition is diagnosed when a person experiences at least five occurrences of obstructive apnea or hypopnea(reduction of air flow) per hour of sleep evidenced by: (1) Snoring, snorting/gasping or breathing pauses, or (2) Daytime sleepiness, fatigue or unrefreshing sleep that is not better explained by another mental disorder or medical condition. The diagnosis may also be confirmed by polysomnography of 15 or more obstructive apneas and/or hypopneas per hour of sleep regardless of accompanying symptoms.

    Obstructive sleep apnea often occurs alongside hypertension, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and heart failure.
  • Central Sleep Apnea
    This sleep disorder occurs when a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.Central sleep apnea occurs because the brain does not send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. This condition is diagnosed through evidence by polysomnography of five or more central apneas per hour of sleep.

This sleep disorder may occur as a result of other conditions, such as heart failure and stroke. Treatments for central sleep apnea may involve treating existing conditions, using a device to assist breathing, or using supplemental oxygen.

  • Sleep-Related Hypoventilation
    This sleep disorder occurs when a person’s breathing is restricted during sleep, leading to hyperventilation. This condition is diagnosed when polysomnography demonstrates episodes of decreased respiration associated with elevated carbon dioxide levels. Sleep-related hypoventilation can occur independently or, more commonly, with other medical or neurological disorders, substance abuse, or even the routine use of prescribed medications.

Mental Health Library Sources:

Information included in all topics of the Mental Health Library comes from the Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria From DSM-5 and Kaplan & Sadock’s Concise Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry. Complete diagnostic and treatment information may be found within these publications.


Information within the Mental Health Library is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis purposes. Rather, it is provided as a public educational service to make people aware of mental health conditions. Please consult a qualified mental health professional for a diagnosis of any suspected mental health illness.

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