What Is Central Sleep Apnea?

central sleep apnea - surgical sleep solutions

There are two major types of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea (CSA) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In order to be properly treated for your sleep apnea, it is absolutely vital that you are diagnosed correctly with either CSA, OSA, or a combination of both.

Central Sleep Apnea Vs. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is by far the more common type of sleep disorder. As the name implies, OSA causes patients to stop breathing during sleep because of an obstruction in the airway. Obstructions could be caused by weak throat muscles, large tonsils or uvulas, narrow airways, or small mouths. OSA can be treated through CPAP devices, which provide continuous air pressure; oral devices, which temporarily opens the airway; or sleep apnea surgery, which permanently opens the airway.

Central sleep apnea is not caused by obstruction, but by the absence of correct signals from the brain. Instead of a physical blockage in the mouth or throat, CSA is caused by an issue related to the brain. Very simply, your brain stem is not able to send the correct signals to the muscles that control your breathing, causing breathing to cease.

The symptoms of CSA are similar to those of OSA:

  • Stopped breathing during sleep.
  • Snoring.
  • Sudden awakenings.
  • Shortness of breath during sleep.
  • Insomnia.
  • Unrestful sleep.
  • Daytime drowsiness.
  • Issues with concentration, memory, and attention.
  • Depression and anxiety.

Who Is At Risk For Central Sleep Apnea?

Unlike OSA, central sleep apnea is often caused by another serious medical condition or an environmental issue. Specifically, CSA can be caused by or associated with:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Kidney failure
  • Certain neurological diseases (including ALS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s)
  • Brain damage (such as damage from an injury, encephalitis, or a tumor)
  • High altitudes
  • Certain medications

Note that some people may develop central sleep apnea after using CPAP to treat their obstructive sleep apnea. This is called complex sleep apnea.

Central Sleep Apena Treatment

In many cases, central sleep apnea is treated by treating the condition that is causing it. If that is not possible, conservative treatments are similar to conservative OSA treatments: creating good sleep habits, sleeping on your side, abstaining from alcohol, and losing weight. Many types of central sleep apnea can also be treated with CPAP devices – this is especially true of CSA associated with heart health issues.

Get Your Sleep Apnea Evaluated Today

Understanding the exact causes of your sleep apnea is key to finding the right treatment for you – and finally finding a good night’s sleep. While bimaxillary advancement surgery is not suited for treating CSA, we sill hope and wish that everyone with sleep apnea finds a solution that works for them. To find out more about your possible sleep disorder, please take our online sleep apnea evaluation.


  1. I’m curious to know how common is central compared to obstructive? I know obstructive is far more common, but just curious.

    Aaron at http://snoozeez.com

    • Hi Aaron,
      Not nearly as common as OSA but many cases are mixed with components of both. A qualified sleep medicine specialist can determine if central component exists. Many times elimination of the instructive component will lead to elimination or improvement in central component.

      • Understandable. Thanks for the response.

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