Complex Sleep Apnea

Definition - What does Complex Sleep Apnea mean?

Complex sleep apnea is the term used to describe sleep apnea which presents with symptoms of both obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by interrupted breathing that occurs while an individual is sleeping. In some apnea occurrences, breathing is only partially disrupted and the sleeper may snore or experience lowered oxygen levels. In other instances, breathing stops altogether and the person may wake abruptly.

Sleep apnea is categorized as OSA or CSA based on the primary cause of the disorder. The causes of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are physical while central sleep apnea (CSA) is caused by a failure of the nervous system to properly signal the body to breathe. Complex sleep apnea may be diagnosed when indications of both obstructive and central causes are suspected.

Complex sleep apnea may also be referred to as treatment-emergent central apnea, complex sleep-disordered breathing, complex sleep apnea syndrome or CompSAS.

WorkplaceTesting explains Complex Sleep Apnea

Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) often involve use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which delivers air to the sleeper's airway, helping to keep the passage open while he or she is sleeping. The purpose of this treatment is to eliminate the physical closure of the airway. However, in some cases, even when the airway remains open, either through the use of a PAP machine or other interventions, the sleeper continues to experience sleep disruptions which resemble central sleep apnea (CSA). In medical terms, the person is said to be experiencing both obstruction and ventilatory dysregulation.

Because of the overlap of symptoms, complex sleep apnea is most often diagnosed only after the sleep has been treated for OSA and his or her sleep problems persist. Continued use of a CPAP device may help resolve complex sleep apnea in some cases. Treatment using adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV) device or bi-level positive airway pressure (BPAP) may also be effective.

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