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Central Sleep Apnea: Its Causes and Treatment

Aug 31, 2020
· 5 mins read

Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder due to which you might have difficulty in breathing during the night. You can quickly characterize it by irregular breathing patterns, snoring, constant headaches, fatigue, and sleep disturbance.

According to, around 22 million Americans suffer from this disorder. It is prevalent in all ages, from kids and teenagers to adults. This disorder does not have any proper cure. However, you can find various treatments that you can follow to subside their effects.

Types of Sleep Apnea

Researchers and doctors have categorized sleep apnea into three types:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

In obstructive sleep apnea, the main irregularity in breathing is due to the blockage of the airway. This blockage occurs when the tongue collapses on the soft palate of your mouth. This soft palate further drops against the back of your throat.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea is the second type. In this type of sleep apnea, the inefficiency in breathing is not due to any blockage but because of your brain’s incoordination. The mind is unable to send signals to the body to breathe.

Complex Sleep Apnea

Complex sleep apnea is the last type of sleep apnea and is a combination of both obstructive and cental sleep apnea.

There are separate treatment methods for different kinds of sleep apnea. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at Central Sleep Apnea- what it is, its causes, and its treatment.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea can cause severe inefficiency in breathing at night. It is because your brain fails to send signals to your muscles that control breathing, unlike in obstructive sleep apnea.

This type of sleep apnea is more common in people with underlying health conditions that can cause improper functioning of the brain.

Types of Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea can be caused due to various factors. Based on these factors, central sleep apnea falls into different types like:

  • Narcotic-induced Sleep Apnea

Opioid-based medications like morphine and codeine can cause central sleep apnea.

  • High-Altitude Periodic Breathing

Central sleep apnea is also caused due to high altitude. The height is usually above 2,500 meters or 8000 feet approximately.

  • Cheyne-Stokes breathing

This type of breathing is mostly observed in patients who have experienced a stroke or heart failure.

  • Medical condition-induced apnea

Other medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure, or cardiac-related diseases can cause central sleep apnea, too.

  • Idiopathic central sleep apnea

When the cause is unknown, this type of sleep apnea is referred to as Idiopathic central sleep apnea.

Central Sleep Apnea Symptoms 

If you’re suffering from central sleep apnea, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue throughout the day
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Reduced concentration
  • Mood swings
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Insomnia
  • Snoring problem
  • Excessive sleep during the daytime

So, if you suffer from these regularly, it is advisable to consult a doctor.

Best Ways to Treat Central Sleep Apnea

Currently, there is no proper cure for central sleep apnea. However, there are ways to reduce its effects and get a restful night’s sleep. We will talk about some of the most effective treatments for your central sleep apnea.

Let’s get into it.

Treating Other Medical Problems

Before you start looking for other treatments for central sleep apnea or CSA, it is essential to know the cause behind it. If your CSA is a result of underlying diseases like cardiac problems, kidney issues, etc., it is better to treat that particular disease first.

Once the overall effect of your disease diminishes, your sleep apnea gets treated, too.

Prevention of Opioid Medications

Opioid medicines, like morphine and codeine, are known to cause central sleep apnea. Now, if that is the leading cause of your sleep apnea, you can either consult your doctor and change your medication or reduce its dose.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy

CPAP therapy is the best way to treat your central sleep apnea. CPAP machines can help you breathe efficiently during the night.

CPAP therapy can help you in the following ways:

  • Regulates breathing
  • Reduces the risk of other ailments like heart diseases, diabetes, etc.
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Reduces insomnia
  • Reduces fatigue during the day
  • Improves emotional stability and concentration
  • Helps to regulate heart rate too

However, it is crucial to find the best CPAP machine and a mask that fits you perfectly to make full use of the machine.

Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV)

If you cannot adapt to a CPAP machine, ASV can help you, too. Like CPAP, ASV can regulate your breathing patterns in a better way.

Unlike a common pressure rate during both inhalation and exhalation in CPAP, the ASV machine regulates the pressure to provide you with more comfort and ease in breathing.

Note: ASV treatment is not suggested for patients with symptomatic heart failure.


You can also get medications for sleep apnea treatment if you do not wish to take a PAP therapy. These medications can help regulate your breathing pattern and give you a peaceful sleep during the night.

As mentioned earlier, you can also reduce the dosage of your opioid medications to treat sleep apnea.

Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) Therapy

Another way to treat central sleep apnea is by using a BiPAP machine. Its objective is similar to the CPAP machine. However, the significant change is in its working.

Some patients find CPAP uncomfortable due to the equal pressure exerted during both inhalation and exhalation. In a BiPAP machine, the pressure delivered to your lungs depends on whether you are inhaling or exhaling.

Thus, a BiPAP machine can help you breathe efficiently without any major difficulties.

Phrenic Nerve Stimulation

Phrenic nerve stimulation is a newly developed treatment to reduce the effects of central sleep apnea in adults.

Phrenic nerve stimulation works by placing an implantable device in your chest that stimulates the phrenic nerve located within it. The phrenic nerve then signals the diaphragm to control breathing.

This treatment can help you attain regular and effective breathing without wearing any mask or taking any extra medications.


You can easily treat central sleep apnea if you choose the proper treatment. However, ignoring it might not be the best idea as irregular breathing can cause other diseases.

So, consult your doctor and explore all the options to find the treatment that suits you best.

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