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    What to Know About Central Sleep Apnea

    Posted: July 15, 2022

    Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that impact many men. What many people don’t realize is that there are different types of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea affects an estimated 10% of people and can have serious side effects on your health. Any type of sleep apnea can lead to serious complications, including strokes, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. In this article, we’ll explain some key information you should know about central sleep apnea (CSA) and how to improve your health, sleep, and overall wellness if you have this condition.

    What is the Difference Between Obstructive and Central Sleep Apnea?

    Man falling asleep at work due to daytime fatigue from sleep apnea

    Both obstructive and central sleep apnea make you stop breathing at night, which can affect your sleep health.

    Most cases of sleep apnea are actually obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is different from central sleep apnea. With OSA, you stop breathing during sleep because something blocks airflow. Specifically, your airways narrow or collapse, preventing air from getting to your lungs. This means there are physical causes of apnea events.

    By contrast, CSA is primarily caused by issues with the central nervous system. Rather than trying to breathe and not being able to, this condition is where your brain doesn’t send signals to the diaphragm and chest muscles needed for breath. Your body makes no effort to breathe during a central sleep apnea event. Therefore, one of the biggest differences between OSA and central sleep apnea is that people with OSA will move their chest muscles to attempt to breathe during an apnea event. CSA sufferers will not. Our home sleep tests can identify disordered breathing during sleep, but you may need a sleep study in a lab to determine if you have central sleep apnea.

    It’s also important to mention that you can also have mixed sleep apnea, which has both physical and neurological elements causing your sleep apnea. It’s called mixed sleep apnea because it’s like a mix of obstructive and central sleep apnea.

    Symptoms of Central Sleep Apnea

    The symptoms of central sleep apnea are similar to OSA. Some symptoms include:

    • Pauses in breathing while you sleep
    • Waking up suddenly at night with shortness of breath
    • Insomnia
    • Daytime fatigue
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Mood changes
    • Morning headaches
    • Snoring

    Snoring is less common in central sleep apnea, but some patients do experience this symptom. However, for most people with CSA, snoring isn’t as loud or prominent compared to those with OSA.

    If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with one of our treatment providers. Our team can test you for sleep apnea and also provide treatment options to help alleviate your symptoms and improve your health.

    Types of Central Sleep Apnea

    There are also different types of CSA. The different categories of central sleep apnea are primarily based on the cause of the sleep disorder.

    Cheyne-Stokes Breathing

    Cheyne-Stokes breathing is a form of central sleep apnea that affects many patients after stroke or heart failure. This is a certain pattern of breathing in people with CSA where your breathing speeds up, slows down, then stops. This cycle repeats over and over throughout the night.

    Drug-Induced Apnea

    In addition, central sleep apnea can be caused by certain drugs and medications. Opioids are a common culprit of drug-induced apnea. They can cause your breathing to slow down and stop. This may be because opioids block pain signals that go from the body to the brain. People with chronic pain who frequently use opioids may be at risk for this type of CSA.

    High-Altitude Apnea

    Some people experience central sleep apnea due to high altitudes. At higher altitudes, there is less oxygen in the air. This can cause your body to alternate between hyperventilation and pauses in breathing. This is also known as high-altitude periodic breathing. It’s common to see it in patients who made a recent altitude change to about 8,000 feet above sea level or more. However, some people may experience it at lower levels of altitude as well.

    Treatment-Emergent Sleep Apnea

    Many people also experience treatment-emergent central sleep apnea. This is where you start out with OSA and get treatment through continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which keeps the airways open through pressure while you sleep. This helps prevent apnea events. However, a small number of people with OSA develop central sleep apnea after starting sleep apnea treatment with a CPAP device.

    Treatment-emergent sleep apnea also used to be known as complex sleep apnea. An estimated 5% to 15% of patients develop treatment-emergent apnea. With this form of sleep apnea, the obstructive apnea events stop, but central apnea events either emerge or continue to occur. It’s not clear why this happens, and researchers are still studying the exact cause of treatment-emergent sleep apnea.

    The good news is that this type of central sleep apnea often resolves on its own with continued use of CPAP therapy. If it persists, our providers may recommend CPAP pressure adjustments, switching to BiPAP, or making other changes to your treatment plan.

    Medical Condition-Induced Central Sleep Apnea

    In addition, you can develop central sleep apnea that isn’t related to Cheyne-Stokes breathing. This is where you experience apnea events without the specific pattern of rapid breathing, slower breathing, and pauses in breathing. There are several health conditions that may cause CSA. Some of them include stroke, end stage kidney disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

    Primary Central Sleep Apnea

    Less commonly, you may have central sleep apnea with no known cause. This is called primary or idiopathic CSA. With this condition, your brain still doesn’t send the signals needed to control breathing, but there’s no clear cause like other health conditions or medications you take. Experts still aren’t sure of what causes primary CSA. However, research shows that men aged 60 or older have a higher risk for developing primary central sleep apnea.

    Central Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

    Sleep apnea can cause potentially life-threatening conditions and can shorten your life. Therefore, it’s essential to get treatment if you think you have this sleep disorder. Many treatment options reduce the risks associated with sleep apnea and can also improve your symptoms.

    Central sleep apnea treatment options often depend on the specific cause. Generally, patients start by treating the underlying cause, like heart disease. In some cases, this may be enough to resolve the issue.

    However, a significant number of patients will need treatment in addition to addressing the underlying cause. The most common type of treatment for central sleep apnea is CPAP therapy. CPAP therapy can help supply pressurized air to your lungs even when your body makes no effort to breathe during an apnea event. Some people may also use supplemental oxygen or BiPAP for treatment.

    Visit Our Men’s Health Clinic for Sleep Apnea Treatment

    If you think you have sleep apnea, the first step to a better night’s sleep is to reach out to our treatment providers at Low T Center. We take a truly comprehensive approach to sleep apnea treatment.

    Our team offers home sleep testing to help rule out obstructive sleep apnea. While our home sleep tests can’t diagnose central sleep apnea, we can help look for root causes of your sleep problems and eliminate many potential causes. If you have sleep apnea, we can create a treatment plan tailored to you. We also provide the equipment you need and help with ongoing monitoring to help you get the most from your treatment plan. We believe health care for men should be convenient, simple, and affordable, which is why we offer all these important health services under one roof for competitive prices.

    As a men’s health clinic, we also offer treatment for many underlying health conditions, including hormone deficiencies, diabetes, and high blood pressure. We are here to help you feel your best. Make an appointment today to talk to our providers about your symptoms.

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    Disclaimer: This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Low T Center. You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.