Discussions about sleep apnea often focus primarily on obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is one of the most common sleep disorders in the U.S. However, many people do not realize that there is another form of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea (CSA). What is CSA, how is it different from OSA, and what can you do to find out if either condition is afflicting you? Continue reading to discover the answers to these important questions.
What Is CSA? – Mangum, OK
The Less Common Form of Sleep Apnea
OSA vs. CSA: A Brief Overview
Both CSA and OSA are marked by pauses in breathing that occur repeatedly throughout the night. Many of their signs and symptoms are similar. For example, they can both lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, decreased productivity, and an elevated risk of numerous systemic health conditions. Despite their similarities, however, there are some key differences between the two disorders:
- Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when tissues in the throat block the upper airway, leading to interruptions in breathing.
- Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send the correct signals to the muscles that control breathing.
What Causes CSA?
Some possible causes of CSA include:
- Cheyne-Stokes breathing. This condition is defined by a cycle wherein a person’s breathing speeds up, slows down, stops, then restarts. It is present in about half of CSA cases.
- Medications. Narcotic medications, such as oxycodone and morphine, may affect breathing patterns.
- High CSA is more prevalent among people who are at an elevation of 8,000 feet or higher.
- Medical conditions. Heart failure, kidney failure, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke may all increase the risk of CSA.
In some cases, doctors cannot identify the cause of central sleep apnea. This is referred to as primary CSA or idiopathic CSA.
Complications of CSA
Some of the health complications that CSA can contribute to include:
- Heart failure
- Heart attack
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Uneven heartbeat
If you have already been diagnosed with serious conditions, including some of those listed above, CSA may exacerbate the problem and make it more challenging for you to manage your health. For example, not getting enough sleep may deprive you of the energy you need to exercise. It can also increase cravings for unhealthy foods. Both of these issues are particularly dangerous for individuals with diabetes.
When to See a Doctor
If you are concerned about the quality of your sleep, schedule a consultation with your doctor. They will ask you about your symptoms and recommend your next steps. They are likely to refer you to a clinic that provides sleep testing. During a sleep test, advanced sensors will monitor your breathing and other vital signs throughout a night. The results of the test will help to determine whether you have sleep apnea, which type of sleep apnea you have, and how severe the problem is.
Once you receive an official diagnosis, you can begin to learn about your treatment options. Your doctor may focus on managing other health conditions that contribute to CSA. They might also prescribe medication to stimulate the brain during sleep. Oral appliance therapy or a CPAP machine may also prove to be helpful.