Periodic breathing

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Periodic breathing consists of clusters of breaths separated by intervals of apnea (no breathing) or near-apnea. As opposed to normal breathing which is usually regular.

Periodic breathing was originally thought to arise from serious neurological or cardiovascular disease and therefore to carry a poor outlook. It is now known that periodic breathing also tends to occur during sleep, it can occur in healthy persons, and the apnea in periodic breathing is usually central (without respiratory movements) rather than obstructive (caused by upper-airway blockage).

Periodic breathing during sleep often occurs in patients with congestive heart failure, however we frequently see periodic breathing in response to changes in Respiratory Drive. Alternating fluctuations between hyperventilation and hypoventilation are driven by changes in carbon dioxide and oxygen acting on chemoreceptors in the body that change the respiration rate and volume. This is typical in both idiopathic and high altitude induced central apnea and sleep disordered breathing.

See also: Cheyne-Stokes respiration