All That You Need to Know About Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea (CSA) is one of the sleep disorders where your body stops making an effort to keep on breathing during sleep. It is a condition where your brain does not tell your muscles to intake air, which makes you regularly stop breathing during sleep.

It is a condition that is not as prevalent as obstructive sleep apnea. However, it is common among heart failure patients and people over 40 years old. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is often linked to underlying health conditions.

If the tied underlying medical condition is left unaddressed, it can lead to the frequent occurrence of disrupted sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. There will also be a heightened risk of issues with the nervous system.

What Is Central Central Apnea?

Central sleep apnea can also be regarded as a sleep-disordered breathing problem. It is a condition where your muscles do not stimulate breathing when you sleep. As it does not physically block your breathing, central sleep apnea is different than obstructive sleep apnea.

However, the same patient can simultaneously have both obstructive and central sleep apnea. In that case, what you are dealing with is mixed sleep apnea.

In most cases, central sleep apnea syndromes come up for serious illness, which should not be confused with insomnia symptoms. Most importantly, conditions that affect the lower brainstem can make central sleep apnea syndromes flare up.

Central sleep apnea is a condition that can affect people of all ages. Young babies who have this condition can pause breathing for up to 20 seconds.


Central Sleep Apnea Vs Obstructive Sleep Apnea


Both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea involve abnormal breathing during sleep. However, they are not the same medical problems.

Firstly, central sleep apnea is basically periodic breathing pauses. It happens because the muscles that control breathing and the brain not functioning correctly. That eventually results in the patient with central sleep apnea trying to stop breathing when they sleep.

On the other hand, patent with obstructive sleep apnea does make an effort to breathe. However, the breathing airway remains blocked during sleep. This eventually leads to excessive daytime sleepiness and other issues.

In simpler words, in obstructive sleep apnea, you stop breathing for upper airway obstruction. And in central sleep apnea, your brain does not send proper signals to the muscles that are responsible for breathing.


Types of Central Sleep Apnea

There are different types of central sleep apnea. Each of them is for a particular reason.


1.     Cheyne-Stokes Breathing and Central Sleep Apnea

Cheyne-stokes respiration is when the breathing suddenly speeds up, then stops after slowing down, and finally restarts again.

Each breathing pattern can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. And these breathing patterns are common for people who have had a stroke or heart failure. Also, these breathing patterns have been reported in half of the cases of central sleep apnea.


2.    Central Sleep Apnea For A Medical Disorder

People with an underlying medical condition and without Cheyne-stokes breathing can also develop central sleep apnea. In other words, it is a type of central sleep apnea with no specific breathing pattern. This type of central sleep apnea is generally caused for brain stem damage, possibly due to an injury or disease.


3.    Narcotic-Induced Central Sleep Apnea

Your breathing patterns can get affected due to opioid medications, which include codeine, oxycodone, and morphine.


4.    Central Sleep Apnea For High-Altitude

Many reports high-altitude period breathing problems. Basically, it is a condition that occurs when you go up to a high elevation. Usually, an elevation of more than 2500 meters can cause high altitude periodic breathing.


5.    Medical Condition-Induce Central Sleep Apnea

Some of the health conditions are associated with central sleep apnea. These include heart failure, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and kidney failure.


6.    Treatment-Emergent Central Sleep Apnea

People with positive airway pressure treatment for obstructive sleep apnea can get central sleep apnea. However, it is not applicable to all. About 5 to 15 percent of patients with obstructive sleep apnea develop it.


7.    Idiopathic Central Sleep Apnea

This is a case of central sleep apnea that has no clear cause. That is why many refer to it as primary central sleep apnea.


What Are The Signs of Central Sleep Apnea?

Many people do not show any central sleep apnea symptoms. For them, the issue comes to light only when they visit a doctor. However, when symptoms do come up, they are not related to snoring, which people with obstructive sleep apnea are connected to.

Nonetheless, the main symptom of central sleep apnea is pausing while breathing. But along with that, these signs can come up:

1.     Excessive daytime tiredness

2.     Poor sleep quality during the night

3.     Insomnia or having difficulties while trying to sleep

4.     Problems with concentration and attention

5.     Waking up with shortness of breath

6.     Feeling chest discomfort during the night

7.     Headaches in the morning

8.     Having trouble maintaining a good mood

9.     Not being about to exercise properly


Risk Factors of Central Sleep Apnea

There are many types of sleep apnea. And anyone can have any of them. Researchers have identified some factors that are said to increase the likelihood of developing central sleep apnea. They are:



Central sleep apnea is most prevalent among people who are over their 40s. And in that age, they might already have different health conditions, which can be an underlying cause of central sleep apnea.


Medical Conditions

Different medical conditions such as hypothyroid disease, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, and neurological diseases.



Men have a higher risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea at the same time.



A few medications are related to sleep apnea, including antidepressants, opioids, and benzodiazepines.


Diagnosis of Central Sleep Apnea

You are most likely to go through a sleep study, which goes by the name of a polysomnogram. It will record sleep information, such as:

·        Heart rate

·        Eye movement

·        Electrical brain activity

·        Muscle activity

·        Air flow

·        Breathing patterns

·        Blood oxygen levels


Final Words

Treatment of central sleep apnea will depend on the underlying cause. And it might involve you taking medicine for heart failure. You might even have to stop an opioid medicine if you are taking one.

However, some general sleep apnea treatments include maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding sleeping pills, not drinking alcohol, sleeping on your side, getting plenty of sleep, and using nasal sprays.