Central Sleep Apnea


Central sleep apnea is surfaced when the breathing process is blocked during sleep. It is a disorder caused by the way brain controls breathing. It is surfaced when the brain temporarily curbs transmitting signals to the cells that control breathing.
This is not identical to obstructive sleep apnea, which is generated by obesity or other disorders and includes loud snoring.

Causes of Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea is more often found in people who have some medical conditions. For instance, it can be found in individuals who have life-threatening medical conditions associated with the brainstem. The brainstem monitors breathing. As a result, any ailment or injury affecting this portion may lead to problems with general breathing while asleep or awake.
Conditions that may result in central sleep apnea include:

  • Neurodegenerative illnesses like Parkinson's disease
  • Radiation of the cervical spine
  • Over weight
  • Bulbar poliomyelitis
  • Encephalitis influencing the brainstem
  • Serious arthritis and degenerative changes in the cervical spine or the base of the skull
  • Use of some drugs like narcotic-containing painkillers
  • Stroke influencing the brainstem
  • Primary hypoventilation syndrome

Any type of central sleep apnea generally develops in individual with congestive heart failure. Idiopathic central sleep apnea stands for apnea that is not linked with another disease.


The primary symptom is the temporary blockage of breathing, specifically during sleep. People with apnea of unknown reason may awake simultaneously and display signs of insomnia.
If a neurological condition leads to the apnea, it may also manifest other symptoms. These include problems in swallowing, voice change, fatigue, or numbness all over the body, based on the underlying disease and what portions of the nervous system is being affected.
Persons with central sleep apnea have frequently manifested disrupted breathing conditions while sleep.
Other symptoms may include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Morning headaches
  • Restless sleep

Signs and Tests

  • Lung and breathing examinations
  • All-night polygraphic sleep checking
  • MRI
  • Tests to identify an underlying medical condition
  • The health care profession will conduct a physical check up. Tests will be conducted to diagnose any associated medical situation. A sleep study (polysomnogram) can check the sleep apnea.


If heart failure leads to central sleep apnea, the objective is to treat the heart failure first. In the case of brainstem problems or idiopathic apnea, nasal CPAP may be administered to enable breathing smoothly.
Oxygen, nasal CPAP, or bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) is often recommended to the patients of some kind of central sleep apnea.
Yet other types of central sleep apnea are treated with medications that enhance breathing.
Any sedative medication is strictly prohibited for the patient.

Non-surgical Treatments

The non-surgical treatments for obstructive sleep apnea are almost identical to snoring treatment with certain differences. Treatments include:

  • dental appliances
  • behavioral changes
  • CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), and
  • drugs

Behavioral Changes

Behavioral changes are the best treatment for slight obstructive sleep apnea, but often the toughest to do. Sometimes apneas unearths only in some positions (mostly lying flat on the back). A person can alter his or her sleeping posture, reduce apneas, and better their sleep.
Obesity is also a contributing factor to block breathing in sleep. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle and a correct diet can encourage weight loss that will in turn improve obstructive sleep apnea.
Below are some common practices enabling sleep and enhance its quality:

  • curb lighting and noise in the bedroom
  • don’t read or watch TV in bed
  • don’t eat or exercise prior to sleep
  • keep work outside of the bedroom
  • try physical and mental relaxation before going to bed.

Dental Appliances

A dental appliance keeps the tongue and jaw apart and the palate up, thus stopping closure of the airway. A dental appliance is small, portable, and any machine is not required to operate it.
However, there are some drawbacks of the dental appliance. It can deteriorate temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. The jaws can cause pain in the joints if stretched too forward. Because of this, it is recommended to have a dentist or oral surgeon to fit and adjust the tool.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is of course the best, non-surgical treatment for any kind of obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP uses air pressure to keep the tissues open during sleep.
The CPAP machine throws heated, humidified air using a short tube to a mask. The mask is worn snugly to curb the leakage of air. The CPAP machine is a little bigger than a toaster. It is portable and can be carried anywhere.

Outlook (Prognosis)

For idiopathic apnea, the prognosis is basically favorable. In congestive heart failure, an immediate and strong treatment of the heart may enhance the outlook. If the reason behind is a brainstem injury, the outlook is expected to be worse.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care professional if you are displaying symptoms of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is generally identified in severely ill patients.