Treatments for central sleep apnea may include:
- Addressing associated medical problems. Possible causes of central sleep apnea include other disorders, and treating those conditions may help your central sleep apnea. For example, therapy for heart failure may improve central sleep apnea.
- Reduction of opioid medications. If opioid medications are causing your central sleep apnea, your doctor may gradually reduce your dose of those medications.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This method, also used to treat obstructive sleep apnea, involves wearing a mask over your nose while you sleep. CPAP is usually the first treatment given for central sleep apnea.
The mask is attached to a small pump that supplies a continuous amount of pressurized air to hold open your upper airway. CPAP may prevent the airway closure that can trigger central sleep apnea.
As with obstructive sleep apnea, it's important that you use the device only as directed. If your mask is uncomfortable or the pressure feels too strong, talk with your doctor. Several types of masks are available. Doctors can also adjust the air pressure.
Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV). If CPAP hasn't effectively treated your condition, you may be given ASV. Like CPAP, ASV also delivers pressurized air.
Unlike CPAP, ASV adjusts the amount of pressure during inspiration on a breath-by-breath basis to smooth out the breathing pattern. The device may also automatically deliver a breath if you haven't taken a breath within a certain number of seconds.
ASV isn't recommended for people with symptomatic heart failure.
- Bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP). Like ASV, BPAP delivers pressure when you breathe in and a different amount of pressure when you breathe out. Unlike ASV, the amount of pressure during inspiration is fixed rather than variable. BPAP can also be configured to deliver a breath if you haven't taken a breath within a certain number of seconds.
- Supplemental oxygen. Using supplemental oxygen while you sleep may help if you have central sleep apnea. Various devices are available to deliver oxygen to your lungs.
Medications. Certain medications, such as acetazolamide (Diamox) or theophylline (Theo-24, Theochron, others), have been used to stimulate breathing in people with central sleep apnea.
These medications may be prescribed to help your breathing as you sleep if you can't tolerate positive airway pressure. These medications may also be used to prevent central sleep apnea in high altitude.