Central Sleep Apnea: ABC of the Disabling Disorder

If you have been diagnosed with central sleep apnea, chances are that you are both surprised and confused. First of all, you know nothing about sleep apnea. Obviously chances of knowing other variants of the illness, the features and cure options are remote.

Neglected snoring is at the root of onset of this dreaded sleep disorder called sleep apnea, marked by recurrent pauses in breathing. It happens when the air way narrows, causing major breathing distress during sleep.

Know the variants

Obstructive, central and mixed – are the three types of the illness, of which obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. It happens when there is a complete collapse and blockage of the upper airway tract.

What actually happens?

Breathing distress is caused mainly by lack of communication or coordination between the brain and the breathing muscles. The brain controls all muscular functions and it sends out timely signals to muscles responsible for breathing, regarding frequency and time of breathing.

For example, obstructive type of apnea happens when the recipient breathing muscles cannot implement the breathing signals sent out by the brain because of obstructions in the air passage. It t is an outcome of complete blockage and collapse of the upper respiratory tract.

Central variety happens when there is no communication between the two; here the brain simply does not remit any signals and there is no effort to breathe. It is a result of certain heart ailments, cerebrovascular disease or any congenital disease.

Some health conditions are common triggers for this condition:

– Bulbar poliomyelitis

– Complications arising from cervical spine surgery

– Encephalitis involving the brainstem

– Neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s disease

– Radiation of the cervical spine

Sleep apnea Symptoms: difficult to catch but not impossible

This disorder, though common, remains one of the most undiagnosed conditions because most of the features appear during sleep. Person sleeping next to the patient notices frequent choking and gasps for air, loud and persistent snoring, pauses in breathing, etc and call for medical help. The patient notices rapid and unexplained weight gain, excessive daytime sleepiness, mood deterioration, etc.

Typical signs of central type of this disorder are excessive daytime tiredness, morning headaches and restless sleep.

How is the condition diagnosed?

It is done with the help of an overnight sleep test also known as polysomnogram examination. It is one of the most reliable and objective diagnostic tool that show the doctor: the nature of the illness, severity and site of obstruction in the air passage. The physical and physiological parameters studied during this overnight sleep study include eye, abdomen and limb movements; brain waves, heart rate, loudness of snoring; oxygen levels in the blood, etc.

Sleep apnea treatment: what are the options?

Therapy is based on severity. For mild to moderate conditions, CPAP along with some lifestyle modifications and self-help initiatives are considered to be best.

Despite its high rate of success, a large section of patients feel unhappy with therapy that involves use of the use of device, mask, etc. For such patients some viable CPAP alternatives are recommended including steroid nasal sprays; nasal decongestants containing oxymetazoline and neosynephrine; drugs like modanifil or armodanifil or using dental sleep apnea devices like mouth guards, etc .are also considered to be effective options.

However for more severe conditions, surgery is the most preferred option.

Some signs could be misleading

Some signs like excessive daytime sleepiness can create confusion since it could also mean the onset of hypersomnia or narcolepsy.

But what is narcolepsy? One of the characteristic signs of this illness is sudden sleep attacks, conspicuously absent in other illnesses. Additionally, the age of onset of sleep apnea is around 50. Other disorders usually set in earlier. The causes of onset of central sleep apnea make this sleep disorder unique; not likely to be confused with any other illness.

To understand better what is obstructive sleep apnea, then make sure to visit Douglas Kidder’s excellent free report on sleep apnea symptoms.

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