What Is Mixed Sleep Apnea?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2019
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Mixed sleep apnea, also referred to as complex sleep apnea, is a type of respiratory illness that causes the affected person's breathing to significantly slow or stop at frequent intervals during sleep. The condition is actually a combination of two forms of sleep apnea, known as central and obstructive. Symptoms often include excessive sleepiness during the day, loud snoring, and a habit of being jolted awake during the night due to a shortness of breath. Treatment for mixed sleep apnea may include lifestyle modification, supportive breathing devices, or surgical intervention.

Those who are diagnosed with mixed sleep apnea are generally found to have some sort of airway obstruction that makes breathing more difficult during the sleep phase. These patients also have trouble regulating breathing rhythm during sleep. Patients with heart conditions are particularly prone to developing this form of sleep apnea.

The severity of symptoms varies for each person with mixed sleep apnea. Heavy snoring and excessive sleepiness during the day are among the most common symptoms of this disorder. The patient may also wake suddenly several times during the night due to breathing difficulties, although these episodes may not be consciously recalled the following day. In many cases, a doctor is only consulted for a medical evaluation at the urging of a partner who recognizes the sleep disturbances.


In order to accurately diagnose mixed sleep apnea, a variety of diagnostic tests may be ordered by a physician. A sleep study in a medical facility is usually the best way for the doctor to monitor the patient, although in some cases a portable monitoring device may be sent home with the patient. After the results of the sleep study have been reviewed by the doctor and a diagnosis has been issued, the patient and physician will discuss the available treatment options.

Patients who smoke or who are significantly overweight may be asked to make some lifestyle adjustments in an effort to treat the condition in a non-invasive manner. A variety of breathing devices are available and may be prescribed for use during sleep so that the airway remains open and breathing is not interrupted during sleep. Mixed sleep apnea can be a potentially fatal condition, so the most extreme cases may require surgical intervention. Any questions or concerns about mixed sleep apnea or the most appropriate treatment methods for an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.



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