Did you know that a sleep disorder has reportedly been diagnosed in 30% of survey respondents in research conducted last 2021?

Central sleep apnea is a type of sleep apnea that has a different cause than obstructive sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea affects your breathing control. It means your brain has trouble telling your lungs to take in air and make noises that sound like snoring.

So what are the underlying causes of central sleep apnea, and how can you treat it? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know.

Sleep Deprivation

There are many potential central sleep apnea causes, but one of the most common is sleep deprivation. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body can’t regulate its breathing correctly. This can lead to episodes of central sleep apnea, where you stop breathing for short periods.

central sleep apnea

Various factors, including stress, a busy lifestyle, and underlying medical conditions, can cause sleep deprivation. You must talk to your doctor if you are suffering from sleep deprivation.

Positional Factors

Sleeping on your back allows your tongue and soft palate to collapse into your throat, which can block your airway and cause central sleep apnea. Sleeping in a reclined position can cause your airway to collapse, as can sleeping on your stomach.

Certain medical conditions, such as obesity, heart failure, and stroke, can also contribute to central sleep apnea. Medications, such as sedatives and narcotics, can also cause central sleep apnea.

Pillows that are too high can cause the airway to become blocked. Those who are overweight are also at a higher risk because fatty tissue can build up around the airway and make it more likely to collapse. People with a history of sleep apnea are also more likely to develop central sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea and Obesity

Obesity can lead to central sleep apnea for a few reasons. Excess weight can pressure the chest, making it difficult for the lungs to expand and leading to shallow breathing. In addition, fat deposits can accumulate around the airway, making it narrower and more likely to collapse during sleep.

Finally, obesity is often associated with other conditions contributing to central sleep apnea, such as diabetes, which can damage the nerves that control breathing. People who are obese often have excess fatty tissue around their necks, which can block their airways and make breathing difficult.


Once considered a rare disorder, central sleep apnea is now known to be a relatively common condition, especially in older adults.

This type of sleep apnea is often associated with certain medical conditions or medications. Treatments for central sleep apnea usually focus on the underlying cause.


Sometimes, this may involve using a breathing machine or other mechanical ventilation. If you are considering sleep apnea treatment, check out these CPAP mask types, which can help prevent you from having sleep apnea.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Several potential underlying medical conditions can cause central sleep apnea. These include conditions that affect the brainstem or the respiratory control center in the brain, such as:


When a person has a stroke, the resulting damage to the brain can cause the respiratory center to malfunction. This can lead to apnea periods, or breathing pauses, during sleep.

Central sleep apnea can also be caused by other medical conditions, such as heart failure or Parkinson’s disease. Treatment for central sleep apnea often includes using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

heart failure


Tumors can grow in the brainstem or the neck and compress or damage the respiratory center, leading to apnea. In some cases, surgery to remove cancer may be the best option.

Nerve Damage

Central sleep apnea can also be caused by problems with the brainstem, which is the part of the brain that controls breathing. When the nerves that control the breathing muscles are damaged, they may not be able to send the correct signals to the muscles. This can cause the muscles to relax and the airway to collapse.

Lifestyle Choices

People who smoke or use certain drugs are more likely to develop the condition. Obesity is another significant risk factor, as is alcohol use. People with certain chronic medical conditions are also at higher risk.

Central sleep apnea is treatable but can be deadly if left untreated. See your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan if you think you may have the condition.

Physical Characteristics

Anatomical abnormalities of the brainstem or other parts of the respiratory control center can lead to signal transmission problems and apnea. Additionally, irregular size or shape of the airway can cause obstruction and difficulty breathing.

Obesity is also a risk factor for central sleep apnea, as excess tissue can collapse the airway. Sleep deprivation and certain medications can also contribute to central sleep apnea.

Psychological Factors

One theory suggests that it may be caused by a misalignment between the body’s natural sleep rhythm and the sleep/wake cycle dictated by our modern lifestyles. This can lead to a stress response that manifests as difficulty breathing during sleep.

sleep apnea

Other possible psychological factors include anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is also worth noting that sleep apnea is more common in people with a family history of the condition. This suggests that there may also be a genetic component to the state.

Understanding the Causes of Central Sleep Apnea

There are many potential causes of central sleep apnea, and more research is needed to determine the exact reasons. However, some possible causes include abnormalities in the brainstem, problems with the nerves that control breathing, and heart failure. If you think you may have central sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about treatment options.

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