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Apnea - Mental or Physical
#1
Can anyone tell me if sleep apnea is a mental issue ( your body saying "hey lets stop breathing" or is it a physical issue or a mix of both

This is just a question that i've never been able to figure out

Thanks
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#2
Depends on the type of apnoea - central apnoea is most often a neurological condition, obstructive apnoea is a most often a blockage of the breathing tube for one reason or another. None are mental, in the strict sense of the word, since this is simply never an emotional issue or a question of chemical imbalance in the brain (well, I say that, but neurological issues are often that, just not the type that create "mental" issues). So that is about as clear an answer as you could get for the question you asked.

Just to complicate matters, people also have mixed apnoeas, where both types are present, and sometimes incorrect pressure settings on a CPAP device can trigger central apnoea events in people who otherwise only suffer form obstructive apnoea.


Does that make it any clearer?
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#3
(11-18-2013, 12:51 PM)DocWils Wrote: Depends on the type of apnoea - central apnoea is most often a neurological condition, obstructive apnoea is a most often a blockage of the breathing tube for one reason or another. None are mental, in the strict sense of the word, since this is simply never an emotional issue or a question of chemical imbalance in the brain (well, I say that, but neurological issues are often that, just not the type that create "mental" issues). So that is about as clear an answer as you could get for the question you asked.

Just to complicate matters, people also have mixed apnoeas, where both types are present, and sometimes incorrect pressure settings on a CPAP device can trigger central apnoea events in people who otherwise only suffer form obstructive apnoea.


Does that make it any clearer?

Yes that does answer my question. Thanks for the quick reply.


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#4
Hi Flaps74,
WELCOME! to the forum.!
Hang in there for more responses to your post.
trish6hundred
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#5
Glad to help.
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#6
Central Apnea = Brain doesn't cue the body to take a breath, so there is no air exchange.
Obstructive Apnea = Brain cues the body to take a breath but there is some type of obstruction preventing air exchange.
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#7
From a practical standpoint, all the effective treatments seem to be "mechanical." i.e. CPAP, body position, weight loss, exercises, surgery, electrical stimulation, etc.

Since you don't have apnea while awake, and many people only have it in certain stages of sleep, it would seem that you should be able to train your brain not to do it.

However, it doesn't seem to work that way. I've never heard of anyone having any kind of success training their brain to stop apnea.

Obstructive apnea is usually considered to be somewhat mechanical in terms of sagging tissues, etc., but since many people don't have apnea all night long, there is probably some neurological component. However, there doesn't seem to be any kind of neurological tricks that help. Some people think Vitamin D helps, but I'm skeptical. A few people seem to find that caffeine, alcohol, certain foods, etc. seem to affect their apnea, but there doesn't seem to be any general effect.

Maybe some day, we'll find some herb or drug that makes the brain keep the airway open. Maybe there will be some sort of mental training of some kind. I'm not holding my breath Grin waiting for such a cure to be found.
Get the free SleepyHead software here.
Useful links.
Click here for information on the main alternative to CPAP.
If it's midnight and a DME tells you it's dark outside, go and check it yourself.
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#8
Central apnoea has to do with brain wiring, and that is a bit more difficult to influence even when using drugs. It can be done, btw, but it isn't always successful, so we tend not to even try if there is a better method to deal with it. And thsoe drugs tend to be rather nasty in other ways.

Drugs also trigger CAs, by altering the brain chemistry, and that can have a nasty knock on effect of permanently affecting the brain wiring. So sometimes you have chicken or egg question. The criterion is to assess if the patient has been experiencing CA without any outside influence (drugs, too high a pressure, etc) - if so, it is brain wiring, if there are other factors, if might be learned or forced behaviour - if the latter, then that is addressed in the therapy. If the former, then the only solution, if there is considerable CA, is PAP therapy to try and help the body deal with the brain's messy wires.
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