What Is Periodic Breathing | How Can I Treat It?

The Hyfe Mind


March 18, 2021
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According to a research study, although periodic breathing mainly occurs during sleep, it can also happen when awake. It is similar to central sleep apnea with hyperventilation (fast or deep breathing in a short time). During periodic breathing, the “apneic threshold” is lower. In other words, the body lets carbon dioxide (the primary waste product that all cells produce) accumulate more than usual, and the blood acidifies more than usual. 

Moreover, the resulting lack or lower quality of sleep can further negatively impact health through conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. And there are many causes for lack of sleep, one of which is periodic breathing. Could it be dangerous? Let’s get to know about periodic breathing better.  

What Is Periodic Breathing

Periodic breathing, also known as periodic respiration or Cheyne-Stokes respiration, is an abnormal pattern of breaths separated by apnea (no breathing) or near-apnea intervals. It’s unlike natural breathing, which is usually consistent. 

Is Periodic Breathing Normal?

No, it is not normal and occurs in rare cases. However, you must follow your doctor’s directions. These cycles can last anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes on average. This respiratory condition can happen when you’re asleep or awake, but it is typically more likely while you’re sleeping.

Here is an informative article sharing periodic breathing during sleep.

When Should I Be Concerned about Periodic Breathing?

Periodic breathing was once considered the result of severe neurologic or cardiovascular disease, with a bleak prognosis. However, periodic breathing is known to occur during sleep in stable individuals. In addition, the apnea in periodic breathing is generally central (without respiratory movements) rather than obstructive (caused by an upper-airway blockage).

Apnea vs. Dyspnea

Apnea Or Problems breathing during sleep

Any reason due to which breathing stops is called apnea. It has three different categories:

  • Central sleep apnea: happens when breathing patterns begin and end continuously during sleep. It consists of the brain’s inability to send signals to the breath-controlling muscles. 
  • Complex sleep apnea: You can call this type of apnea a combination of central and obstructive apnea. And can be challenging to treat and fully resolve.

Have look at this in-depth research study discussing complex sleep apnea syndrome.

Here are some interesting stats on sleep apnea: 


Healthcare professionals consider experiencing breathlessness, being unable to breathe, or having shortness of breath is dyspnea. There are two types of shortness of breath:

  • Acute Severe Breathlessness
  • Chronic Exertional Breathlessness

What Are the Symptoms of Periodical Breathing?

Read these factors inducing periodic breathing in humans: a general model.

People with periodic breathing usually experience:

  • Snoring
  • Morning headaches
  • Insomnia (difficulty falling and staying asleep)
  • Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea 
  • Orthopnea or shortness of breath when lying down
  • Excess daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia) and fatigue due to the interrupted sleep
  • Chest pain during the night
  • Mood swings 
  • Trouble concentrating 

Snoring can be detected in the case of central sleep apnea, even though it suggests a degree of airflow disturbance. On the other hand, Snoring is not as noticeable in central sleep apnea as in obstructive sleep apnea.

Who Is at Risk from Periodic Breathing?

This condition can occur in people with congestive heart failure or neurological disorders. A study found that about half of the people with moderate to severe congestive heart failure also experienced Cheyne-Stokes respiration.  

Since this condition may be a part of central sleep apnea syndrome, many cases of Cheyne-Stokes can go unnoticed because it occurs more often while sleeping.

How to Treat and Prevent Periodic Breathing

Based on the cause of periodic breathing, you can have different treatments.

  • Supplemental oxygen. Many studies point out that it’s necessary to supply short-term oxygen to reduce the effects of periodic breathing, especially during the night. Also, research demonstrates night oxygen therapy eases patients’ symptoms and improves their quality of life. Moreover, their heart function can also improve (precisely, their left ventricle function).

The treatments include:

  • Pacemaker and other devices
  • Medication
  • Heart transplant
  • Cardiac valve surgery


Do Breathing Exercises

A person doing breathing exercises

Here are some tips to increase your lungs’ tidal volume or capacity. 

  • Belly Breathing (also know as diaphragmic breathing)
  • Purse Lip Breathing
  • Deep Breathing
  • Equal Breathing
  • Sitali Breathing
  • Lions’ Breath
  • Humming Bee Breath
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing
  • Yoga
  • Breath Focus Technique
  • Resonant breathing (also known as coherent Breathing)

You can prevent Cheyne-Stokes respiration by avoiding medical problems associated with it, such as heart disease and stroke. If you have these conditions, you need to strictly follow your healthcare providers’ treatment and medication.

Avoiding exposure to toxins, allergens, irritants, and pollutants can also help reduce the risk of developing periodic breathing. Furthermore, you can use a helpful tool to assist you in keeping a close eye on your breathing and health.

If you search for medically proven ways to treat, read central sleep apnoea and periodic breathing in heart failure: prognostic significance and treatment options.

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