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I have "central sleep apnea." What is this? What causes it? Is there treatment?

July 29th, 2012

I already had a sleep study, and the doctors said I had apnea, but it was "central apnea." They said I would stop breathing 20+ times during the night. My follow-up MRI was normal. No brain injury, damage or tumor–glad to hear THAT! I am not overweight, and they told me a PPAP or other sleep machine would NOT help me. I would like to know more about "central sleep apnea."

In pure central sleep apnea , the brain’s respiratory control centers are imbalanced during sleep. Blood levels of carbon dioxide, and the neurological feedback mechanism that monitors it do not react quickly enough to maintain an even respiratory rate, with the entire system cycling between apnea and hyperpnea(faster breathing). The sleeper stops breathing, and then starts again. There is no effort made to breathe during the pause in breathing: there are no chest movements and no struggling. After the episode of apnea, breathing may be faster for a period of time, a compensatory mechanism to blow off retained waste gases and absorb more oxygen.In central sleep apnea, the basic neurological controls for breathing rate malfunctions and fails to give the signal to inhale, causing the individual to miss one or more cycles of breathing. Possible causes of central sleep apnea include heart or neuromuscular disorders, and treating those conditions may help.
Here are a couple of treatments you could ask your physician about:
Bilevel positive airway pressure (bi-PAP). Unlike CPAP, which supplies steady, constant pressure to your upper airway as you breathe in and out, bi-PAP builds to a higher pressure when you inhale and decreases to a lower pressure when you exhale. The goal of this treatment is to boost the weak breathing pattern of central sleep apnea. Some bilevel PAP devices can be set to automatically deliver a breath if the device detects you haven’t taken a breath after so many seconds.
Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV). This more recently approved airflow device is designed to treat central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea. The device learns your normal breathing pattern and stores the information into a built-in computer. After you fall asleep, the machine uses pressure to normalize your breathing pattern and prevent pauses in your breathing.
Courtesy Mayo Clinic

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