Sleep and Health

What is the Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)?

Last updated on October 20th, 2022 at 07:56 am

Central sleep apnea is a disorder in which your breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Central sleep apnea occurs because your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing.

Central sleep apnea, as the name implies is a cessation in breathing resulting from a central (inside the central nervous system or brain) cause. Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, due to obstructions to breathing, central sleep apnea is caused by pauses to breathing that are due to a failure of brain to tell the body to breathe normally.

What Causes Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)?

Central sleep apnea occurs because your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing. This condition is different from obstructive sleep apnea, in which you can’t breathe normally because of upper airway obstruction.

Medical experts have not been able to find out the root cause of central sleep apnea which is also referred to as CSA. In childhood, the reason for central sleep apnea is not clear which is called idiopathic by medical experts; however few reasons that could obstruct the brain signals to enable the normal breathing process which is as under:

  1. Cerebral palsy
  2. Premature birth
  3. Head injury
  4. Smoking during pregnancy
  5. Problems with brain stem or skull base

In adults, certain heart conditions, stroke or kidney failure might lead to CSA.

What are the central sleep apnea symptoms (CSA)?

Central sleep apnea is a type of sleeping disorder which might actually be life-threatening.

There are some quite prominent symptoms to look out for which might actually help you identify central sleep apnea in an early stage.

  • Loud Snoring: Due to the respiratory system being blocked, the person suffers from sleep apnea, which results in very loud snoring.
  • Breathless Episodes: Obstruction in the nasal cavity does not allow the proper intake of air while sleeping. Due to the patient might feel breathless while sleeping.
  • Gasping For Some Air to Breath: Sufferer tends to struggle a lot for breathing. This happens because the oxygen level decreases in the body.
  • Dry Mouth Problem: Because of nasal obstruction the sufferer breathes more through the mouth which generates this problem.
  • Sleepy All The Time But not Able to Have Sleep at The Right Time: Since the sufferer does not get a sound sleep at night they feel sleepy all the time but when they actually go to sleep the breathlessness doesn’t allow them to fall asleep.
  • Always Irritated: Not getting proper rest makes the person irritated and hampers with the normal activities of the day.

What is an effective treatment option for central sleep apnea?

Although Central Sleep Apnea can be more difficult than Obstructive Sleep Apnea to treat, there are a number of viable treatment options depending on severity.

  • First and Foremost: See a doctor. Being diagnosed and knowing the underlying cause will pay dividends. In some cases, treating that cause may alleviate, which is sometimes the case in patients with heart disease.
  • Alternatively: CPAP, BiPAP, supplemental oxygen, certain drugs that increase respiratory drive are all treatment options for Central Sleep Apnea.
Can central sleep apnea kill?

Not enough stimulus to breath from your breathing centre in your brain. It won’t kill you outright, but after a longer time by inducing hypertension, even coronary heart disease, and sleep deprivation causing more traffic accidents, and other risks involving the operation of dangerous appliances.

Like obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea also causes pauses in breathing and wakes you up from slumber. The condition can result from miscommunication between the brain and respiratory system. Because of this, the respiratory muscles forget to perform their action and draw in the air. The condition has the same side effects as OSA, like exhaustion, tiredness, irritation, and much more. If a patient’s airway gets repeatedly blocked because of central sleep apnea, it may cause high BP, coronary artery disease, and cognitive heart failure.

How the Central Sleep Apnea Occur?

Central sleep apnea refers to the fact that the problem is “central” or related to the central nervous system. This is where the brain intermittently stops making an effort to breathe for 10 to 30 seconds. The apnea can persist for several seconds even after waking up, triggering feelings of panic and further disrupting the sleep cycle.

Central sleep apnea starts with an initial episode of hyperpnea, which is when the brain directs the lungs to start hyperventilating during sleep by increasing the respiratory rate. This rapid breathing causes hypocapnia, a drop in the blood’s carbon dioxide levels. When the carbon dioxide falls below a certain threshold, the body slips into a state of apnea, making no effort to breathe and taking in no oxygen.

This causes the carbon dioxide levels to rise back to normal levels and then, as the apnea persists, they keep rising to which is called hypercapnia. The really high carbon dioxide levels trigger hyperpnea again,and the cycle starts all over. Essentially, the respiratory system is going rapidly back and forth between two states, first making no effort to breathe and then hyperventilating, with no in-between.

What is an effective treatment option for central sleep apnea?

Positive airway pressure devices used for central sleep apnea include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP) and adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV). These devices deliver pressurized air through a tight sealing mask to help support breathing.

Sleep apnea can be treated largely by making basic lifestyle modifications in the following ways;

  1. Try to maintain a healthy body weight by measuring your BMI (body mass index) which is weight in Kg/(height in mt)2 . It should ideally be between 18 to 24. By decreasing your weight by 10% of your current weight , your symptoms of sleep apnea are expected to improve significantly.
  2. Exercise regularly. Make sure you include moderate workout for at least 30mins. It may include brisk walk, running, jogging and exercising. It helps to regulate hunger hormone called leptin and insulin, which help to eventually control weight. This also breaks nasal congestion.
  3. Avoid excessive alcohol and smoking. Alcohol gives poor quality sleep. It also relaxes the throat muscles that are needed to help control breathing. Both smoking and alcohol can give rise to cough and chest congestion leading to fluid retention in the airways , which can worsen sleep apnea.
  4. Avoid sedatives and tranquilizers. They have the same effect of relaxation on the throat muscles. This can lead to worsened snoring which often adds up to the tiredness and drowsiness experienced during the following day.
  5. Humidify your bedroom. It helps in clearing up airway congestion. Applying essential oils like Eucalyptus oil on your chest helps in clearing airways.
  6. Adjusting your sleeping position. Elevating your head, sleep on your sides with the head slightly raised, or sleep on your stomach. These are some helpful positions to curb sleep apnea.

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