Alternate Names : Sleep apnea – central
Central sleep apnea is when you repeatedly stop breathing during sleep because the brain temporarily stops sending signals to the muscles that control breathing.
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Sleep disorders
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Central sleep apnea often occurs in people who have certain medical conditions. For example, it can develop in persons who have life-threatening problems with the brainstem. The brainstem controls breathing. As a result, any disease or injury affecting this area may result in problems with normal breathing during sleep or when awake.
Conditions that can cause or lead to central sleep apnea include:
- Bulbar poliomyelitis
- Complications of cervical spine surgery
- Encephalitis affecting the brainstem
- Neurodegenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease
- Radiation of the cervical spine
- Severe arthritis and degenerative changes in the cervical spine or the base of the skull
- Severe obesity
- Stroke affecting the brainstem
- Primary hypoventilation syndrome
- Use of certain medications such as narcotic-containing painkillers
One form of central sleep apnea commonly occurs in people with congestive heart failure. Idiopathic central sleep apnea refers to apnea that is not associated with another disease.
Central sleep apnea is not the same as obstructive sleep apnea, which is due to a blockage in the airway.
Review Date : 9/21/2009
Reviewed By : Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of Veteran Affairs, VA New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange , NJ . Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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