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Central Sleep Apnea – Covington, GA

The Rarer Form of Sleep Apnea

Usually, when people mention sleep apnea, they are talking about obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). However, some people suffer from the rarer form of sleep apnea, which is known as central sleep apnea (CSA). It can be just as damaging as OSA, and it is often more difficult to diagnose and treat. What should you know about CSA, and if you have this condition, what can be done about it? This page aims to provide some valuable information. If you have questions about what you learn, get in touch with our Covington sleep dentistry team.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea vs. Central Sleep Apnea: What Is the Difference?

Tired man sitting at desk

All types of sleep apnea are characterized by multiple pauses in breathing throughout the night. These pauses, called apneas, interrupt the sleep cycle and make it difficult — if not impossible — for a person to get the rejuvenating rest they need to function and feel their best.

The main difference between OSA and CSA is the cause of the apneas.

  • In obstructive sleep apnea, pauses in breathing occur because tissues in the upper airway overrelax, blocking the free flow of oxygen.
  • In central sleep apnea, the brain fails to send the correct signals to the muscles that control breathing.

What Causes Central Sleep Apnea?

Illustration showing human brain against dark background

There are several possible causes of CSA, including:

  • Cheyne-Stokes breathing. This issue is present in about half of all central sleep apnea cases. It causes a person’s breathing to cyclically speed up, slow down, stop, and then start again.
  • Some narcotics, such as morphine and oxycodone, are associated with changes in breathing patterns.
  • CSA is more common at elevations above 8,000 feet.
  • Medical conditions. Kidney failure, heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke may all lead to an increased risk of CSA.

In some instances, there is no clear cause for CSA. This is known as idiopathic or primary CSA.

Complications of Central Sleep Apnea

Senior man experiencing heart problems

On the surface, CSA might seem like nothing more than an annoyance. However, it is actually a serious condition that could increase your risk of some grievous health conditions, including:

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

When Should You See a Doctor?

Doctor making notes during consultation

You may need to see a doctor if:

  • Your partner has told you that you sometimes stop breathing during sleep.
  • You are always tired despite spending 7 – 8 hours asleep.
  • You often wake up with a headache.

A doctor or sleep dentist can help you arrange for sleep apnea testing. You can learn if you have OSA or CSA, as well as how severe your condition is. After the diagnosis, you can start to consider your treatment options.

Addressing CSA is not always straightforward because it comes from a misfire in the brain. You might need to get your regular medications adjusted, or you may need to start using a CPAP machine. In some cases, CPAP therapy combined with an oral appliance is the most effective way to find relief. That is often true among individuals who struggle with complex sleep apnea, which is a combination of OSA and CSA.