You may already know that the term sleep apnea refers to any cessation of breathing during sleep; apnea means a loss of breath and so sleep apnea is when a person stops breathing when asleep. However one of the most dangerous forms of this condition is central sleep apnea, where the body fails to signal the lungs to inhale on a regular basis. When a person doesn’t inhale as they should this means they’re not getting oxygen on a regular cycle as the body needs. This regular cycle of oxygen is so important that the body can and does force itself to breathe even if you consciously try to hold your breath. Central sleep apnea musn’t be ignored.
During periods of central sleep apnea, the heart will respond to this lack of oxygen intake by increasing the heart rate, causing stress and strain to the heart muscles. When you exercise you heart rate speeds up which is good for you but this is not the same. An increased heart rate during exercise is always accompanied by breathing oxygen in and carbon dioxide out, but not so with central sleep apnea! This unnatural increase of the heart rate can damage the heart itself as it’s working harder but without nourishing oxygen to help out.
It’s believed that central sleep apnea can trigger seizures in the patient. This is caused by the sudden drop in blood oxygen levels, and this occurs whether the person has a seizure disorder or not. Other problems that can arise due to central sleep apnea can include heart attacks and angina. Additionally, the lack of regular breathing that occurs with any form of sleep apnea can result in a buildup of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream which means blood poisoning.
As with central sleep apnea, all forms of sleep apnea should be addressed as quickly and effectively as possible. A person that is overweight should endeavor to bring their weight under control. A snore pillow can keep the head from falling back and the tongue from blocking the throat and airway. A humidifier in the bedroom can help with keeping sinuses open. A CPAP machine, which is rather like an oxygen machine that you would see in hospital, can be useful in severe central sleep apnea cases. This is not something that you should bury your head in the sand about – you have to address the issue!