Central sleep apnea (CSA) or central sleep apnea syndrome (CSAS) is a sleep-related disorder in which the effort to breathe is diminished or absent, typically for 10 to 30 seconds, either intermittently or in cycles and is usually associated with a reduction in blood oxygen saturation. CSA is usually due to an instability in the body’s feedback mechanisms that control respiration (breathing) and is commonly associated with heart disease or previous stroke. It sometimes develops at high altitudes.
Treatment requires specialised investigation and a range of potential therapies. Importantly central sleep apnea is much less common than sleep apnea. Some patients with both obstructive and central sleep apnea are labelled as having “complex sleep apnea”. This condition is controversial and is relatively rare. We are increasingly seeing patients being told they have this condition and being sold expensive ventilator-type devices that they may not need. If you are told you have complex sleep apnea, it may be worth getting a second opinion.