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What You Should Know About Central Sleep Apnea

When most people talk about sleep apnea, they tend to focus on obstructive sleep apnea — interruptions to breathing that occur due to fatty tissues closing off the throat. While obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea, central sleep apnea is still worth noting. Though it is less common, it still results in interruptions to breathing during sleep, and can prove just as problematic for your long-term health outcomes.

Here is what you should know about central sleep apnea.

How is Central Sleep Apnea Different From Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

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There are actually several types of central sleep apnea, though they all share one common trait — that there is a communication issue between the brain and the respiratory muscles that control breathing. There isn’t a physical blockage preventing the flow of air.

Roughly half of central sleep apnea cases are attributed to Cheyne-Stokes breathing. This is a condition in which a person’s breathing alternates between rapid and slow breaths, after which breathing stops for a period before the cycle begins again.

Other forms of central sleep apnea are related to neuromuscular disease, which can result in extremely weak respiratory muscles; or tumors, strokes, or other trauma that affects the brain stem, which controls the breathing process.

Interestingly, some forms of central sleep apnea tend to be more temporary. For example, some people experience altitude-induced periodic breathing when they go to high elevations above 8,000 feet. Because there is less oxygen in the air, they begin to take faster, deeper breaths, which can cause pauses during sleep. Certain narcotics, particularly opioids, can also interfere with the brain’s ability to regulate breathing during sleep. Generally, when these exterior issues are removed, the central sleep apnea will resolve on its own.

In addition, some people who have obstructive sleep apnea will develop central sleep apnea after beginning CPAP treatment. This condition, usually referred to as either complex or mixed sleep apnea, often will resolve on its own as the individual continues treatment. In some cases, however, adjustments to CPAP therapy may be required.

Risk Factors For Central Sleep Apnea

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Heart disease — specifically heart failure and atrial fibrillation — is believed to be the biggest underlying cause that contributes to central sleep apnea. However, other health problems such as kidney failure and Parkinson’s disease can also contribute to central sleep apnea. Hypothyroid disease is also a known contributor to this condition.

Similar to obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea is more likely to occur in men and older adults. Because heart disease is often linked with obesity, overweight individuals are also more likely to develop central sleep apnea as a result of weight-related heart problems.

Central sleep apnea can lead to other serious medical conditions, including an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, and fatigue-related accidents while driving or at work.

Diagnosing and Treating Central Sleep Apnea

hooking up CPAP mask

When central sleep apnea goes untreated, it can cause fragmented sleep with frequent interruptions throughout the night. Even if you get a “full” night’s rest, you will still be drowsy, moody, and have trouble concentrating due to intense fatigue the next morning. Morning headaches are another common symptom of central sleep apnea.

Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, individuals with central sleep apnea typically don’t snore as a result of their condition. While your bed partner may notice pauses in breathing during the night, the quiet nature of these interruptions makes them less likely to notice that something is wrong than with obstructive sleep apnea.

If you suspect that you may be suffering from central sleep apnea — particularly if you have medical conditions such as heart disease or a neurological disease — you should schedule a sleep study, also known as a polysomnogram.

During the study, sleep specialists will monitor several key metrics, including your brain and muscle activity, heart rate, blood oxygen level, breathing patterns, and air flow. By monitoring these factors throughout the night, they can identify whether you suffer from central sleep apnea or another condition, and determine its severity.

If you are diagnosed with central sleep apnea, you will likely be prescribed a CPAP or BiPAP machine. These devices provide pressurized air throughout the night, ensuring that your lungs get plenty of oxygen, even when your brain doesn’t send the appropriate signals.

In addition to using a CPAP or BiPap device, your doctor may advise that you take steps such as losing excess weight, sleeping on your side, using nasal sprays to reduce congestion, or changing medications. These healthy steps can lower your risk of both obstructive and central sleep apnea episodes.

Get the Equipment You Need at No Insurance Medical Supplies

If you have been diagnosed with central sleep apnea, you may have been discouraged after seeing the price tags associated with CPAP and BiPAP equipment. Without insurance coverage, the idea of paying for this equipment yourself can be quite daunting.

This is where No Insurance Medical Supplies can make a difference. We offer a wide-range of CPAP and BiPAP machines from top brands such as ResMed — and all at a significant discount off MSRP. In addition to our discounted prices, you can also make your purchase more affordable with available financing for purchases over $500 through CareCredit or TimePayment.

Regardless of whether you have central sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea, the right medical equipment will make all the difference for your sleep quality and overall wellbeing. Don’t wait to get the help you need. If you have a valid prescription, you can place your order today to start enjoying the better sleep you deserve.


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