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Find Out About the Causes of Central Sleep Apnea

There are many possible causes of central sleep apnea (CSA). This disorder occurs when you momentarily stop breathing during your sleep, as a result of the brain not sending the correct signal messages to the muscles associated with breathing.

These apneas often last for twenty seconds or more and can also have an effect on the heart rate and blood oxygen. This problem can happen repeatedly during the night and is not to be confused with a similar type of disorder called obstructive sleep apnea, which happens when the airway has become blocked.

Many of the causes of central sleep apnea, but not all, are associated with someone who is already suffering from an existing medical condition. Similar to obstructive sleep apnea, CSA is more common in males and people over the age of 65.

Roughly 1 in 4 children experience some form of sleep apnea and those who were born premature, or have congenital problems, can suffer from CSA specifically. Most infants will eventually grow out of their episodes but for some it has to be monitored on a regular basis. 

It is quite common for extremely premature babies to have this disorder as the respiratory center in their brains has not yet fully matured and developed properly. Children cannot always be given the same medication as adults for this but if they are, it is monitored strictly with resuscitation equipment readily available at all times.

There are a range of different medical conditions that can be causes of central sleep apnea in adults. Diseases of and injuries to the brain stem, and/or damage to the cervical spine, can have a dramatic effect on breathing, as it is the brain stem that controls and regulates normal breathing functions. This usually only becomes a problem during the night because a person is able to control and maintain their own breathing pattern when awake.

Congestive heart failure can be linked with any form of apnea as a result of a change in blood flow around the body. The only way of curing CSA in someone who has had congestive heart failure is to treat the existing heart problem, as the apnea is not likely to go away if this problem still exists.

causes of central sleep apneaKidney failure, or acute renal failure, and generally poor kidney function can affect brain activities. New studies have shown that it could be a risk factor for cognitive deterioration in old age, therefore this would mainly only happen to older adults. 

The research has shown that this mainly relates to cognition with memory problems but can also be detrimental to other parts of the brain, resulting in the failure of signals being sent to the body.

Obesity may be one of the rarer causes of central sleep apnea but can still be a reason a person is experiencing sleep loss of any kind. 

It is a well known fact that sleep apnea and weight loss are intertwined. Being overweight or obese is detrimental to overall general health and can play a big part in many medical conditions. Excess fat puts a great amount of pressure on the body and, in some circumstances, has been known to lead to issues with the functions of the brain stem, which could then alter normal breathing patterns.

An experience that can also alter the brain stem functions is having a cerebrovascular incident, also known commonly as a stroke. This happens to the body when there is a sudden and rapid loss of brain function, which has occurred as a result of a disturbance of the blood supply to the brain. 

Without the blood it needs, the brain and most parts of the body cease to function properly and this can cause the person having a stroke to collapse. The long term effects on the body vary considerably depending on the age and general health of the person. If brain control does not return to normal then this may have a negative influence on regular breathing.

Both an underactive and an overactive thyroid are associated with a rise in blood pressure. Just like the heart, the brain relies on a consistent blood supply to work properly and survive.

Non Health Related Causes of Central Sleep Apnea

Different forms of drugs and medication can influence the brain stem's ability to operate as normal. Recent research shows that the use of opioid based pain relief can be linked to CSA. On a much larger scale, this can be potentially fatal as it affects breathing and can lead to opioid-induced respiratory depression.

causes of central sleep apneaSleeping at high altitude is also thought to be one of the causes of central sleep apnea. The change in oxygen levels at a higher altitude can result in experiencing rapid, alternating breathing. 

This problem will usually only occur at a height of 15,000 feet and above where the oxygen is much thinner in the air than our lungs have been accustomed to.

Although smoking does not directly cause CSA, it can make the disorder worse for some people as inhaling smoke can inflame and enlarge tissue in the throat. 

Smoking is very dangerous to overall health but is most harmful to our lungs and has a negative effect on breathing. Having a history of heavy smoking can affect sleep and this becomes more of a problem in old age.

In conclusion, central sleep apnea is a disorder that cannot be avoided by everyone as some of the problems that cause it can be untreatable or hereditary. However, there are certain steps that can be taken to try and prevent sleep deprivation. 


Try to live a healthy lifestyle, eat sensibly, take part in regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight for your gender, age, and height. If possible it is advised to avoid alcohol, smoking and overuse of unnecessary medication.


Another idea is to ensure your sleeping pattern is regular by improving your sleep hygiene by going to bed at the same time every day, having a full, solid sleep and making sure the bed you are sleeping in is suitable and not disturbing your comfort during the night.

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