Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
Central sleep apnea is less common than obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by airway obstruction that prevents air from passing through the airway as it should. Central sleep apnea is a similar condition, but less common. The brain is responsible for the condition.
How does central sleep apnea (CSA) occur?
Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send signals to the muscles responsible for breathing. This lack of signaling results in a lack of respiratory effort and, consequently, insufficient airflow. The lungs are no longer supplied with oxygen, creating a deficit in the blood oxygenation level.
The brain sends an alert to the respiratory muscles to start ventilating the airways. The patient will breathe again until the next apnea.
Origins of central sleep apnea
Central sleep apnea differs from obstructive sleep apnea, where breathing efforts are not affected but breathing is altered due to upper airway obstruction. A failure of the nervous system is responsible for central sleep apnea.
Causes of central apnea
Central sleep apnea may occur as a result of other conditions such as congestive heart failure, hypothyroidism or kidney failure. It may also be associated to neurological disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), encephalitis-induced brainstem damage, stroke, trauma, and more.
Sleeping at a high altitudes may also cause central sleep apnea. Treatments include managing existing conditions, using a device to assist breathing, or oxygen supplementation.
However, it is a rare form of sleep apnea.
Symptoms of central sleep apnea
Short, repetitive breathing during sleep is the most common symptom of central apnea syndrome. This breathing disruption can cause frequent micro-awakenings, which can affect the quality of sleep.
People with medical pathologies experience tiredness during daytime, poor concentration. Headaches are also common upon awakening. However, as opposed to obstructive sleep apnea, snoring is not necessarily a symptom of central sleep apnea
How to diagnose central sleep apnea?
Repeated central apnea has many health effects, therefore screening test is essential. By examining sleep patterns during a polysomnography test, the sleep specialist can determine the nature of the sleep disorder. Other tests can be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
Then, doctors consider providing appropriate treatment for their patients. As with obstructive sleep apnea, the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines can provide a smooth breathing experience for patients suffering from central apnea.
Central sleep apnea is a rare form of sleep apnea
There is another type of central apnea called Cheyne-Stokes respiration (CSR).
Cheyne-Stokes breathing is an abnormal respiratory pattern, characterized by alternating periods of apnea and deep, rapid breathing.
This abnormal breathing pattern is commonly seen in patients afflicted with congestive heart failure, stroke, brain tumors, or damage to their brain, spinal cord, or brain stem.
These conditions affect the brain’s respiratory centers, located in the medulla oblongata at the bottom of the brain stem.