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Understanding Sleep Apnea Without Snoring

by Angeline T. 08 Jul 2024

     Sleep apnea is one of the most common problems related to serious sleep disorders among millions of people all over the world. Characterized by a repeated act of breathing cessation during sleep, such people are at risk of serious health complications if not treated promptly. In most instances, snoring is believed to be associated with sleep apnea; however, not all who have this sleep disorder necessarily snore. There is a condition known in many as "silent" or "non-obstructive" sleep apnea or sleep apnea without snoring, whereby the risk it conveys is certainly equal to, if not greater than, obstructive sleep apnea.

What is Sleep Apnea Without Snoring?

     Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder whereby a person's upper airway becomes blocked or collapses during sleep, making one stop breathing for some time, and then breathe again. It may happen hundreds of times during the night and will result in poor quality sleep and a lot of other health complications.

     While the most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which physically closes off the airway, there is another form called central sleep apnea or sleep apnea without snoring. With CSA, there is nothing wrong with the pathway air passes through to get to the lungs; instead, it relates to the control of breathing by the brain while asleep.

¬† ¬† ¬†The condition also goes by other names like "silent" or "non-obstructive" sleep apnea, as this hallmark symptom of sleep apnea‚ÄĒsnoring‚ÄĒusually is not present in the sufferer. Other symptoms of this sleep apnea may include breathing gaps during sleep and gasping or sudden waking up at night, but these are perceptions and are missing the loud snoring typical with OSA.

Central Sleep Apnea Definition

Causes of Central Sleep Apnea

     Various underlying factors can lead to sleep apnea without snoring, such as:

1. Medical Conditions: The normal control of breathing by the brain can get disrupted due to certain medical conditions, in turn leading to sleep apnea without snoring. Such medical conditions include but are not limited to heart failure, stroke, Parkinson's disease, and neurological disorders.

2. Medications: Many categories of commonly prescribed medications depress the respiratory center in the brain; under these come opioid painkillers, which can cause sleep apnea without snoring.

3. High Altitude: Residing or visiting places at high altitudes can cause sleep apnea without snoring in some individuals due to low oxygen levels that interfere with brain mechanisms that control breathing.

4. Idiopathic: In some cases, there is no apparent cause for sleep apnea without snoring in a patient, in which the disorder is idiopathic in that patient.

Symptoms of Central Sleep Apnea

     As mentioned, sleep apnea without snoring does not include the complete blockage of the airway; hence the symptoms can be quite distinct from those in obstructural sleep apnea. Common symptoms of sleep apnea without snoring include:

1. Pauses in breathing during sleep: As was discussed, in CSAs patients can wake up some time with the stop of breathing which ranges in time from several seconds to a minute or more.

2. Gasping or choking during sleep: Several individuals who have sleep apnea without snoring wake up at night and choke or gasp for air in their sleep.

3. Insomnia: Due to the disruption of sleep patterns by sleep apnea without snoring, people experience difficulty in the act of falling or maintaining sleep and may suffer from insomnia.

4. Excessive daytime sleepiness: Owing to the low quality of sleep, those affected by sleep apnea without snoring are usually very sleepy during the day and may even feel sleepy all through.

5. Cognitive impairment: Sleep apnea without snoring also results in attention deficit, memory impairment, and other related issues to do with cognitive performance.

Diagnosing Central Sleep Apnea

     Since the manifestation of Sleep Apnea without snoring is not as apparent as that of OSA, it is recommended to seek professional help if there is suspicion of the disorder. The diagnosis of sleep apnea without snoring typically involves a combination of the following:

1. Sleep study (polysomnogram): It is the most common overnight test, which is considered the definitive method of diagnosing sleep apnea without snoring because it records many body activities and processes while the patient is asleep, such as breathing, oxygen levels, and brain waves.

 2. Medical history and physical examination: Your healthcare provider will obtain details regarding your current and past symptoms, past and present medical conditions, and any present lifestyle factors that may contribute to sleep apnea without snoring. 

3. Imaging tests: Your doctor may also recommend imaging tests like the chest X-ray or MRI to exclude other conditions that can lead to sleep apnea without snoring.

Treatment Options for Central Sleep Apnea

     Once sleep apnea without snoring or central sleep apnea has been diagnosed, different treatment alternatives may be utilized depending on the cause of the disorder:

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy: This is the most common and effective treatment for sleep apnea without snoring. For instance, it works by providing constant air pressure via a mask that helps to keep your airways open while you are asleep.

Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV): This is one type of positive airway pressure therapy used in the treatment of sleep apnea without snoring. To match an individual’s breathing pattern, its machine automatically adjusts the air pressure.

Medication: There are times when your healthcare provider can prescribe medications that aid in controlling respiration during slumbering periods such as acetazolamide or theophylline.

Treating underlying medical conditions: In case sleep apnea without snoring is caused by certain health problems like heart failure or stroke, treating these conditions could relieve symptoms of sleep apnea.

Lifestyle changes: Also, some changes in lifestyle such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and not taking alcohol before bed can help control the effects of sleep apnea without snoring on a person.

Mattress for Central Sleep Apnea

Choosing the Right Mattress for Central Sleep Apnea

     Mattress type might make the difference in alleviating your sleep apnea without snoring to rest without being interrupted during the process. In general, it should be such that it provides support for the spine and neck in a neutral alignment while applying pressure relief to sensitive areas. This can facilitate easier breathing and reduces the chances of the airway being obstructed during the night.

     In the case of sleep apnea without sleeping,
memory foam mattresses are mostly suggested because they contour and give the appropriate pressure relief to a body. The contorting ability of memory foam material can thus help maintain the spine at the right posture and give support to the head and neck. This is particularly effective in people who are side sleepers and have sleep apnea without snoring because memory foam relieves pressure at the shoulder and hip levels.

     You could consider an adjustable air mattress. These mattresses allow you to adjust the firmness on both sides of the bed if you are sleeping with a partner who does not have sleep apnea. That is also useful if the change in sleep position could be managed for sleep apnea without snoring by adjusting mattress firmness.

     For those who have sleep apnea without snoring, besides the type of mattress, it is also the sleep environment in general. Getting a good quality of sleep can be aided by generally keeping the bedroom cool, quiet, and comfortable. White noise from a sound machine,
ventilation of the bedroom, and an exact temperature of 65-70¬įF tend to linger in the stages of a restful night's sleep.

     Other sleep accessories, including a wedge pillow or an adjustable bed frame, may be used in combination with the right mattress to ensure the upper body is elevated, therefore preventing the possible closure of the airway.

     Ultimately, the best mattress for sleep apnea without snoring is the one that emanates necessary
support and pressure relief to promote breathing without disruption and quality sleep. Consult with your health professional on the best treatment plan that may incorporate lifestyle changes, medical devices, and proper mattress selection.

     Putting your money in an appropriate mattress strategically is one surefire way to improve your general health and well-being since you will never fail to deal with your central sleep apnea effectively.


     While sleep apnea has been associated with loud snoring, one must be aware of a form of the disorder: central sleep apnea, also known as "silent" sleep apnea, where these apparent symptoms do not appear. This kind of sleep apnea might prove to be even more dangerous because it often is left unseen and can eventually turn into many health problems if untreated.

     Knowing the causes, symptoms, and necessity of sleep apnea without snoring diagnosis and proper treatment can empower anyone to take the right actions toward creating better sleep quality and improvement in health. If you or a loved one is showing some of the signs of central sleep apnea, seek out a professional to get evaluated and obtain a treatment plan that is tailored to your needs.

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