Central Sleep Apnea
How Is Central Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
If you have any of these symptoms of central sleep apnea, or if a family member or bed partner notices that you stop breathing while sleeping, you should talk to your doctor or health care provider.
If your doctor suspects you have central sleep apnea , he is likely to perform a physical exam, take a medical history, and recommend a sleep history. The next step will likely be an overnight sleep study called a polysomnogram. This test is performed in a sleep lab under the direct supervision of a trained technologist. During the test, the following body functions may be monitored:
- Electrical activity of the brain
- Eye movements
- Muscle activity
- Heart rate
- Breathing patterns
- Air flow
- Blood oxygen levels
After the study is completed, the technologist will tally the number of times that breathing is impaired during sleep and then grade the severity of sleep apnea. In some cases, a multiple sleep latency test is performed on the day after the overnight test to measure how quickly you fall asleep. In this test, patients are given several opportunities to fall asleep during the course of a day when they normally would be awake.
How Is Central Sleep Apnea Treated?
If central sleep apnea is associated with some other condition, such as congestive heart failure, that condition is treated, if possible.
Some of the more conservative treatments for obstructive sleep apnea would likely benefit people with central sleep apnea as well. Some of these conservative treatments include:
- Losing weight if necessary, and then maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding the use of alcohol and sleeping pills, as these items make the airway more likely to collapse during sleep
- Sleeping on your side if you have apneic events when sleeping on your back, possibly using pillows or other devices to keep you in place
- Using nasal sprays or breathing strips to keep air flowing if you have sinus problems or nasal congestion
- Avoiding sleep deprivation
Another treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is the preferred initial treatment for most people with obstructive sleep apnea. The treatment has been beneficial in people with central sleep apnea, as well. This is especially true of people who have central sleep apnea associated with heart failure.
With CPAP, patients wear a mask over their nose and/or mouth. An air blower forces air through the nose and/or mouth. The air pressure is adjusted so that it is just enough to prevent the upper airway tissues from collapsing during sleep. The pressure is constant and continuous. CPAP prevents airway closure while it is being used, but apnea episodes return when CPAP is stopped or is used improperly. Other styles and types of positive airway pressure devices are available for people who have difficulty tolerating CPAP.