If you, or someone you love, are having difficulty breathing at night or you have been experienced unexplained exhaustion and mood swings – you may be experiencing central sleep apnea symptoms.
The problem with detecting central sleep apnea symptoms is the main one occurs when you are asleep, and the others can be mistaken for other conditions.
It is only by understanding the nature of central sleep apnea symptoms, as well as eliminating other potential causes, that you can accurately make a diagnosis and then proceed with treatment.
Fortunately, in most cases this is one of the easiest forms of the condition to treat, requiring no special machines or medications.
If you suspect you suffer from central sleep apnea symptoms, talk to your doctor.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a chronic condition wherein the person stops breathing while asleep. The period of time that they cease breathing can vary from a few to many seconds.
In many cases this can become a life threatening condition. It is considered to be a life threatening condition for children and infants as their brains and bodies are not developed enough to be deprived of oxygen for even the shortest of times.
There are several different kinds of sleep apnea – obstructive, central and complex are the main types found in most people who are diagnosed.
How is central sleep apnea different?
Central sleep apnea is different from obstructive or complex types because it is characterized by the body not getting the signal to breath from the brain.
In a way, the brain forgets to tell the body to breath. Something goes wrong within the brain stem that does not allow the message to be sent.
The brain stem is the “switchboard” for communication between the brain and the body. When any part of it is damaged or compromised the right messages may not get through to tell your body what to do.
Who is at risk?
While anyone can get this kind of apnea, including infants, there is one demographic that is considered to be more at risk than any other. If you are male, over 40 and overweight then you may develop this condition.
It can also develop if you have several of the contributing factors present, but you are more likely to have it with the factors and as a member of the highest risk group.
What causes it?
Being overweight is the primary cause of central sleep apnea. There are other factors that can contribute to it such as poor diet, excessive caffeine consumption, alcohol use, use of sleep aids and a variety of chronic conditions.
These chronic conditions include diabetes, congestive heart failure, stroke, brain stem injury or infection, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other conditions that affect respiration, circulation and neurological activity.
What are the symptoms of central sleep apnea?
The main symptoms are unfortunately ones you won’t notice. They include interrupted breathing patterns while sleeping; because you are sleeping you won’t know why you woke up.
What you will experience is just waking up frequently during the night. There are other symptoms that are associated with central sleep apnea that are easier to spot. These symptoms include:
- Waking up to urinate frequently
- Increased moodiness or mood swings
- Difficulty in focus or concentration
- Feeling of general fatigue or exhaustion
- Unexplained weight gain
- Increase in susceptibility to colds and flu
- Vision impairment
Many of these symptoms can be interpreted as belonging to other conditions, which is why it is important to talk to your doctor about the possibility you may have central sleep apnea.
This type of apnea is also known for the symptoms that it does not have, such as snoring. Snoring is associated with the obstructive type.
If you are exhausted during the day, experiencing mood swings and headaches – there is a good chance that some kind of apnea is occurring.
Your doctor will have to eliminate other possible causes before they will recommend you to a sleep lab for further testing.
What symptoms do they measure in a sleep lab?
While many people talk about sleep labs, very few people have any real understanding about what happens in one.
Understanding the effect of sleep deprivation on the brain is something that is measurable and can help determine what type of sleep apnea you are suffering from. In the lab, you will be asked to spend one overnight and most of one day.
During the night, you will be monitored by with an EEG machine to measure your brain activity, as well as having your eye movement tracked and the pattern of your breathing interruption and wakening tracked as well.
Each of the different types of apnea has their own unique patterns of interruptions and changes in the electrical activity of the brain.
The next day the lab sets up a schedule for you where you will be given opportunities to fall asleep, even though they occur at times when you should be able to stay awake.
The lab technicians will measure how quickly you fall asleep and/or the changes that occur in your brain activity when given the opportunity. This is called a sleep latency test and it is an important part of forming a diagnosis
What is the impact of central sleep apnea on your health?
It doesn’t take long for sleep deprivation to have a significant effect on your overall health and well-being.
With central sleep apnea the effect is worsened as this is a chronic and nightly condition. Sleep deprivation can create a number of problems in your life. It has been shown to
- Promote weight gain
- Cause depression
- Lower immune resistance
- Cause difficulties in relationships
- Interrupt the ability to focus well
- Cause or complicate chronic conditions such as
- High blood pressure
- Cholesterol imbalances
- Congestive heart failure
All of these are potential problems that can arise from a chronic state of sleep deprivation.
Talk to your doctor if you suspect you have central sleep apnea as the treatments for it are effective and easy to do.