Sleep is much more complicated than you can think of. Aside from the stages of sleep you go through, there are also sleep disorders that can be experienced, which are often linked to other human ailments. Understanding sleep can be your way to have a real peaceful rest at night.
In this article, we will talk about Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), a type of sleep problem people commonly encounter. CSA is a sleep disorder in which you shortly stop breathing during sleep. When this happens, it means that there might be a problem with the connection your brain and the muscles responsible for your breathing have.
Central Sleep Apnea is different from Obstructive Sleep Apnea in which blocked airways cause breathing interruptions. The latter is a more common type of sleep apnea while CSA only comprises about 20% of the total number of sleep apnea cases. However, it is possible to acquire both types which is known as ‘mixed sleep apnea.’
What are the types of central sleep apnea?
The type of CSA you might experience depends on its causes. If you are going through medication, treatment, or have an existing medical condition, you might fall into one of these types of apnea.
Taking painkillers such as opioids, morphine, codeine, or oxycodone can depress breathing, make it irregular, or stop it temporarily. In some cases, it can sedate a patient which disables them to wake up from oxygen deprivation.
Treatment-emergent central sleep apnea
This type of central sleep apnea occurs to people who are undergoing obstructive sleep apnea therapy, brought by the usage of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which often results in a combination of both apneas.
Medical condition induced sleep apnea
Central sleep apnea is caused by problems that affect the brainstem or the brain itself which includes stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). It can also be due to congestive heart failure, coronary heart diseases, and kidney failure.
Cheyne-Stokes breathing is an abnormal respiration characterized by periodic breathing which causes carbon dioxide to increase in your body. This condition typically occurs during the non-REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep in a form of cycle. When this happens, breathing suddenly increases then decreases, and may stop temporarily.
High-altitude Regular breathing
Sleeping at altitudes above 15,000 feet can cause Cheynes-Stokes breathing, which often feature sleep fragmentation, periodic breathing, and insomnia. Studies show that those who ascend more than 4,000 feet will have a hundred percent chance of experiencing abnormal respiration while sleeping.
Idiopathic (primary) central sleep apnea
This is a rare condition of sleep apnea and its causes are still being explored.
What are the symptoms of central sleep apnea?
While obstructive sleep apnea is often diagnosed due to severe cases of snoring, central sleep apnea does not really cause such noise since the airway isn’t blocked. Its common symptoms are shortness of breath while sleeping or having shallow respiration. Other signs of CSA can also be noticed during daytime which is mainly brought by interrupted sleeping.
If you experience the following symptoms, it is advisable to seek a physician’s help.
- Episodes of stopped breathing or abnormal breathing patterns during sleep
- Disturbed sleeping with shortness of breath
- Difficulty swallowing
- Shortness of breath that’s relieved by sitting
- Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
- Chest pain in the night
- Concentration difficulties
- Voice changes
- Speech pattern changes
- Memory problems
- Disposition changes
- Morning headaches
- Reduced tolerance for exercise
How is Central Sleep Apnea diagnosed?
Cases of sleep apnea are often consulted to a neurologist as this disorder is concerned with the functions of the nervous system. A cardiologist may also be involved since heart diseases are often linked with this sleep problem.
To determine if you are experiencing central sleep apnea, a physician will advise you to take a polysomnography, a test in which electrodes will be attached to your head and body so doctors can measure your breathing pattern, brain activity, oxygen levels, heart rate, and lung function.
You may also be advised to take an MRI scan which can generate images of your organs that are linked to having sleep apnea such as the brain and the spinal cord.
How can I avoid having sleep apnea? What are its remedies?
The steps you can do to avoid sleep apnea can also become simple remedies to alleviate this sleeping problem. Although sleep apnea can be caused by certain medications and uncontrollable circumstances, your lifestyle can also be a factor in developing this disorder.
Here are the things you can do at home to prevent sleep apnea or to reduce its symptoms:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise or be active
- Change your sleep position
- Use a humidifier to add air moisture
- Avoid alcohol and smoking