Even though it is not as common as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA) is still a problem for many people. New research shows that scientists are one step closer to solving the problem of CSA and sleep-disordered breathing.

What is Central Sleep Apnea?

Central sleep apnea (CSA) is a sleep-related disorder that affects an individual’s breathing. The disorder occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the body—signals that tell the vital muscles used in breathing to work during sleep.

Some of the signs and symptoms of CSA include:

  • Diminished or absence of breathing during sleep, for short bursts of time (10 to 30 seconds),
  • Inability to voluntarily operate diaphragm or thoracic muscles while waking up,
  • Urgent need to breathe upon awakening,
  • Snoring,
  • High blood pressure,
  • Poor memory, and
  • Daytime lapses that turn into sleep.

Research Findings

The new study, performed by the University of Edinburgh’s Centre of Integrative Physiology, found key information about the signals that regulate breathing during sleep. These signals are important, especially during times where oxygen levels are low.

In order to find a solution to treating central sleep apnea, scientist looked into an enzyme called AMPK. The AMPK enzyme helps people breathe faster when their availability of oxygen is low. Using genetically modified mice that were not treated with the AMPK enzyme, the study was able to determine that the mice showed similar symptoms to people with central sleep apnea.

Scientists are hopeful that their findings can lead to new treatment for central sleep apnea.  Professor Mark Evans, of the University’s Centre for Integrative Physiology, says, “Our findings identify exciting new avenues for the treatment of sleep disordered breathing, because drugs that mimic AMPK activation could restore normal breathing patterns in people suffering from this disease. Mice with AMPK deficiencies could also prove useful for helping us to identify such therapies.”