Dr. Sanchez of University of Mississippi Medical Center has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.)
Dr. Attarian, Director of the Northwestern University Sleep Disorders Program, received honorariums from Eisai and Insights for consulting work.)
Dr. Culebras of SUNY Upstate Medical University at Syracuse received an honorarium from Jazz Pharmaceuticals for a speaking engagement.)
This article includes discussion of central sleep apnea due to high-altitude periodic breathing, altitude insomnia, and high-altitude periodic breathing. The foregoing terms may include synonyms, similar disorders, variations in usage, and abbreviations.
In this article, the authors explain the basics of central sleep apnea due to high-altitude periodic breathing. Included are updates related to sleep timing, oxygen saturation and pulse oxymetry measurements at high-altitude.
• Central sleep apnea due to high-altitude periodic breathing affects about a quarter of people who ascend to 2500 meters and almost 100% of those who ascend to 4000 meters or higher.
• There are a variety of medications that may be beneficial, including sedative hypnotics, acetazolamide, steroids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
• Women are more resistant to the effects of high altitude than men.
• Pregnant women at high altitudes tend to have increased neonatal complications and high risk of low birthweight in newborns.
Historical note and terminology
High-altitude insomnia and high-altitude periodic breathing are no longer diagnostic categories in the 2014 International Classification of Sleep Disorders, 3rd edition (American Academy of Sleep Medicine 2014). The current nomenclature is central sleep apnea due to high-altitude periodic breathing, which is characterized by cyclic periods of central apnea and hypopnea, usually accompanied by frequent awakenings, poor quality sleep, sense of suffocation, and fatigue at high altitudes.
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