Sleep apnea, central: A breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send the appropriate signals to the breathing muscles to initiate respirations. Central sleep apnea is less common than obstructive sleep apnea. Diagnosis is by observation, patient history, and polysomnography. Treatment depends on the patient's medical history and the cause of sleep apnea. Options include lifestyle changes, dental appliances, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), and various types of surgery to correct physical defects that contribute to sleep apnea.