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Central Sleep Apnea

Central Sleep Apnea

While less common than Obstructive Sleep Apnea, central sleep apnea is still estimated to affect as much as 20% of sleep apnea sufferers.

Central sleep apnea occurs when the patient’s brain signals fail to instruct the body to breathe properly during sleep. This makes CSA slightly more difficult to diagnose and treat than OSA, because masks and oral appliances are ultimately ineffectual.

Central Sleep Apnea Causes

There are different types of central sleep apnea, and different ways they affect the brainstem in its control of your breathing. For example, patients with Cheyne-Stokes breathing experience an irregular breathing pattern, characterized by underbreathing and overbreathing, and occasionally a total cease of breathing. This condition is commonly associated with stroke and congestive heart failure.

Breathing patterns like Cheyne-Stokes can sometimes occur in higher altitudes due to changes in oxygen. People who frequent or live in very high altitude locations have a higher chance of developing CSA. Certain medications are also known to cause irregular breathing as side effects, most commonly opioids such as oxycodone or codeine sulfate.

CSA often occurs among people who have sustained illnesses such as:

  • chronic heart failure
  • stroke
  • kidney failure
  • brain disease and injury
  • upper spinal injury
  • Parkinson’s disease

Symptoms of Central Sleep Apnea

Symptoms of Central Sleep Apnea are very similar to the symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, including excessive daytime sleepiness, chronic fatigue, snoring, and morning headaches. However, if a patient is experiencing CSA as a result of a neurological disorder, keep an eye out for irregular breathing while awake, weakness or numbness in the limbs, and voice changes or difficulty swallowing.

Diagnosing Central Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea (all forms) is typically easy to observe in a sleeping person, but only a doctor will be able to tell you if you have CSA. A sleep study complete with a polysomnography test will determine whether the patient has obstructive, central, or complex sleep apnea.

If you suspect you or a loved one have CSA, or any other type of apnea, please contact our office or make an appointmet online by clicking the “book appointment” button at the top of the page.