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Central sleep apnoea

Hello, I am 34 and have suffered from some form of Sleep Disorder for most of my life. It only became a real issue once I was supporting myself completely and I realised how difficult and constantly tiring life is! I have seen many doctors over the years and had many tests, all that have lead me nowhere (just to further doctors and tests). It has been suggested that I have central sleep apnoea (I am slim, with no blockages found) - but I have many mixed in symptoms ranging from restless legs to sleep paralysis. Some doctors suggest that some kind of CPAP machine could help me - but haven't been willing to offer it to me. Other doctors say it wouldn't help because I lose any will to breathe as it were, so I wouldn't work with the machine. I have also seen a doctor that believes I have catathrenia, but they know no cause and suggest that it will cause no problems - which is far from reality, otherwise I wouldn't have been seeing doctors in the first place. What I would like to know is, are you aware if any treatments like CPAP can help in a central Sleep apnoea situation? Or if catathrenia is the cause, are you aware of any treatments or help available. It was also suggested that I could have built up a habit of not breathing, but if this is the case, are there any studies or information on how someone like me could break this habbit? Are there any other options I can look at with regards to these issues? For extra information, after many years of seeing doctors, I am quite well versed in sleep hygiene and generally avoid caffeine, alcohol and other activities that could potentially affect my sleep. Many thanks.

25 March 2021

We thank you for your question about the very rare condition of catathrenia.

Parasomnias are unwanted behaviours  or experiences that occur during specific stages of our sleep. Parasomnias can give rise to erratic behaviours, emotions and  abnormal movements. Common parasomnias  that we may be aware of are night terrors and sleep walking. Some parasomnias are associated with sleep apnoea, psychiatric disorders, shift work and stress. Central sleep apnoea is when our breathing stops and starts during sleep, because the brain is not co-ordinating the muscles that control our breathing. Central sleep apnoea is very different to obstructive sleep apnoea. Central sleep apnoea is associated with  other medical conditions such as heart failure and stroke

Catathrenia (nocturnal groaning) is an extremely rare parasomnia and this may explain your difficulty in finding  reliable information about its management and  treatment. A lot more scientific study is required to establish a successful treatment regime for catathrenia. As you are aware, catathrenia  is condition which is characterised by lots of episodes of moaning or groaning when we exhale during our sleep. Catathrenia does not usual impact upon a person’s sleep quality. The main impact of catathrenia is that our sleep partners will not have their own refreshing sleep and this is due to the disturbance caused by  loud groaning.

There is some limited evidence from medical research that continuous positive airway pressure devices (CPAP) may help some people. The number of people successfully treated with CPAP for this condition is poor and sometimes surgery has been considered for this condition.

The management of your condition needs to be co-ordinated at a very high level of care and this usually requires a referral to  a sleep disorders clinic and appropriate consultants. Typically, people with parasomnias have to manage their condition as best they can without any  clinical interventions. Consultants based at a sleep disorder clinic will have greater experience at managing parasomnias such as catathrenia and will suggest the most appropriate intervention for you and this annoying condition.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses

You may also be interested in...

Sleep apnoea and other sleep disorders - AXA Health

The Sleep Foundation (2020) Parasomnias. (Accesssed 18/03/2021).

NHS (2021) Sleep Apnoea. (Accessed 18/03/2021)

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