Central Sleep Apnea – Mesa, AZ

The Less Common
Type of Sleep Apnea

Discussions about sleep apnea often center on obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is one of the most common sleep disorders. However, many people may not realize that there is another type of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea (CSA). What is CSA, how does it differ from OSA, and what can you do to find out if you are suffering from either condition? This page discusses the answers to those important questions.

OSA vs. CSA: Defining the Differences

Both OSA and CSA are characterized by pauses in breathing throughout the night. Many of their symptoms are similar. For example, they can both lead to excessive daytime drowsiness, decreased productivity at work, and a heightened risk of numerous health systemic health conditions. However, there are some key differences between the two conditions:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when tissues in the back of the throat block the upper airway, leading to disruptions in breathing.
  • Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.

What Causes CSA?

There are numerous possible causes of CSA:

  • Cheyne-Stokes breathing. This condition is defined by a cycle wherein a person’s breathing speeds up, slows down, stops, then starts again. It occurs in about half of CSA cases.
  • Medications. Narcotic medications, such as morphine and oxycodone, may affect breathing patterns.
  • High CSA is more common among people who are at an elevation of 8,000 feet or more.
  • Medical conditions. Heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure, and stroke may all increase the risk of central sleep apnea.

In some cases, there is no clear cause of central sleep apnea. This is referred to as primary or idiopathic CSA.

Complications of CSA

CSA is more than a mere annoyance. It can contribute to a higher risk of numerous health complications, including:

  • Heart attack or heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Uneven heartbeat

If you are already struggling with serious health conditions, including some of those listed above, CSA may exacerbate them and make them more difficult to control. For example, not getting enough sleep may make it challenging for individuals with diabetes to get enough exercise. It can also increase cravings for unhealthy foods.

When to See a Doctor

If you are concerned about the quality of your sleep, consider scheduling a consultation with your doctor. They will learn about your symptoms and recommend your next steps. They may refer you to a clinic that provides sleep testing. During a sleep test, sophisticated machines monitor your breathing and other vital signs throughout a night. The results of the test will help to determine whether you have sleep apnea, what type of sleep apnea you have, and how severe your condition is.

Once you receive a proper diagnosis, you can begin to explore your treatment options. Your doctor may focus on managing other health conditions that contribute to CSA. If you have mixed sleep apnea (both OSA and CSA), you may benefit from a CPAP or oral appliance therapy.