Central sleep apnea is when you stop breathing in your sleep, but you don't snore. It means that your brain forgets to command your body to breathe. Central sleep apnea occurs when the airway is NOT blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, because there is an underlying problem with the nerves that control breathing.

Frequently Asked Questions

The respiratory center from the brain is the major concern. This center controls the chest muscles to make breathing movements. When the respiratory center stops working during sleep, then your breathing stops and does not respond to the changes of the respiratory gas levels (oxygen and carbon dioxide) from the blood).

In central apnea, you stop breathing in your sleep for a period of time (at least 10 seconds), but there is no effort from the body to breathe at all, such as in obstructive sleep apnea. Therefore snoring is not present in central apnea. You will wake up several times at night, often with the sensation of gasping or choking during sleep.

Frequent waking up episodes may cause disruption of your sleep and you may feel very tired during daytime.

The main cause of central apnea is unknown, but there are risk factors that can influence its development, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender - there is an increased prevalence in the elderly
  • Thyroid Disease
  • Neurological or Cardio logical Abnormalities
  • Narcolepsy
  • Cheyne Stokes respiration - gasping for air, sometimes more than 40 seconds, often seen in patients with heart failure.

Central apnea is most commonly seen in persons with neurological disorders that affect the control center of respiration, such as:

  • Lesions of the brain stem,
  • Cardiovascular disorders,
  • Cerebrovascular disease,
  • Lesions of the spinal cord.

Central apnea can also occur in infants who are prematurely born. Such symptoms generally disappear in the first six months of age. There is an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome in infants who suffer from central apnea syndrome.

The symptoms of the central apnea are similar to OSA (except snoring):

  • Shortness of breath,
  • Insomnia,
  • Poor nocturnal sleep,
  • Awakening during sleep,
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness

Snoring is less common in central apnea, but it may be a symptom of mixed sleep apnea.

Assisted ventilation devices, such as a negative pressure ventilator like the cuirass respirator, are usually required if you have a severe central apnea syndrome.

This ventilator may induce obstructive apnea episodes, used with caution. If you have heart problems, such as cardiac failure, the treatment for your heart may greatly improve central apnea syndrome.

For some people with central sleep apnea, CPAP therapy may not work. A nasal CPAP can aggravate the condition of the disease.

Sharon Izak Elaine Chat staff