Senior Living Care Blog

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Posted by Joe Gilmore on May 9, 2019 11:00:00 AM
 

Getting a good night’s sleep can become more difficult as we age as many face problems like sleep apnea and insomnia. Luckily, there are ways to alleviate these issues and wake up well rested.

 

As we age, our sleep patterns begin to change and it can interfere with a person’s circadian sleep cycle. They may also wake more frequently during the night and tend to go to sleep earlier in the evening. Another common problem associated with senior sleeping is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a problem that is increasingly seen in older people and is significantly associated with cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairment.

 

While the problem occurs in at least 4 percent of men and 2 percent of women aged 30 to 60 years, the number skyrockets when looking at older individuals. For people, aged 60 and above, the prevalence rates could be as high as 45 to 62 percent. Moreover, older individuals who have sleep apnea are less likely to seek medical attention and, therefore, more likely to deal with the consequences of undiagnosed sleep apnea.

 

Sleep apnea can lead to a lot of problems including excessive fatigue, decreased attention and concentration, and can even increase your risk of a number of disorders including asthma and cancer. Luckily, there are a number of treatment options available for those suffering from sleep apnea and sleep-related breathing problems.

 

 

What Is Sleep Apnea?

An individual asleep on their bed. Individuals with sleep apnea wan have a harder time sleeping.

Sleep apnea is a common condition in the United States. It occurs when the upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, reducing, or even completely halting airflow. This is known as obstructive sleep apnea.

 

To diagnose the problem, healthcare providers will use sleep studies and record the number of episodes that slow or stop breathing and the number of central sleep apnea events detected in an hour. The test would also determine the oxygen levels in the blood during this time.

 

Causes

There are a number of physical and medical conditions that can cause sleep apnea. For example, obesity is one of the most common causes of the problem in adults. People who are overweight can have increased fat deposits in their necks that can block the upper airway and restrict breathing.

 

Along with obesity, endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism can affect sleep-related breathing. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which people have low levels of thyroid hormones

 

Sleep apnea is also commonly found in people who have advanced heart or kidney failure.

 

Symptoms

Common signs of sleep apnea are snoring and gasping during sleep, reduced or absent breathing, and sleepiness. If the problem persists and remains undiagnosed, it can prevent restful sleep and can cause issues that may affect other parts of the body. Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Excessive daytime tiredness and fatigue
  • Decreased attention, concentration, motor skills, and verbal memory
  • Dry mouth or headaches
  • Sexual dysfunction or decreased libido

 

It should be noted that women who have sleep apnea are more often to report problems like headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and more.

 

Sleep apnea can also lead to an increased risk in a number of other disorders including asthma, cancer, chronic kidney disease, eye disorders like glaucoma, heart and blood vessel diseases, and more.

 

Treatment

Luckily, for those dealing with sleep apnea, there are a number of routes for treatment that you can go down. For example, there are simple lifestyle changes that you can make to get yourself healthier, there are breathing devices that can help you, and there are also surgical and therapeutic options available.

 

Some lifestyle changes that you can make to help treat or control your apnea include making heart-healthy choices such as limiting your alcohol intake, especially before bed. Exercising more, getting regular physical activity, and aiming for a healthy weight can do a lot for preventing sleep-related breathing problems.

 

Meanwhile, breathing devices like a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine is commonly recommended for patient with sleep apnea. Similarly, mouthpieces are typically custom-fit devices that you where while you sleep which will work to open the upper airway and alleviate breathing problems.

 

 

Other Sleep-Related Problems

A man sleeping in a chair on the street. Sleep apnea can cause excessive fatigue.

Besides sleep apnea, there are many other problems that older people can deal with when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.

 

Insomnia

For example, insomnia is a common problem for older people in which they have difficulty falling or staying asleep. For some this may be caused by and underlying medical condition or may be the side effect of a medication they are taking. Whatever the case may be, it affects nearly half of those over the age of 65.

 

Restless Leg Syndrome

Sleep-related movement disorders are often times overlooked. It is characterized by periodic leg movements that occur during sleep. It has been found in 45 percent of randomly selected elderly subjects. Restless leg syndrome can occur for a number of reasons such as iron deficiency, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. Similarly, about half of patients with the syndrome have a positive family history which suggests an underlying genetic predisposition for the issue.

 

 

What’s Next

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects respiratory and breathing functions. The problem occurs in the upper airway and becomes blocked during sleep, it can even stop airflow. There are number of conditions associated with sleep apnea including fatigue, depression, and other problems. Luckily, there are a number of ways that you can treat sleep apnea if you are dealing with it, such as therapy, surgery, breathing devices, and lifestyle changes. Sleep apnea, and other sleep-related disorders, generally affect older people which, unfortunately, can interfere with their ability to live independently.

 

Seniors being unable to live independently is not a new problem. Many are unable to perform day-to-day tasks due to the issues that they face. If you are worried that your loved one is struggling to live independently, it may be a good idea to look into assisted living facilities that can help them. Landmark Senior Living is one facility that can help residents as they age by providing them with the medical and social services that they require. If you would like to learn more about what Landmark can offer your loved one, please visit our website today and schedule a free walkthrough of one of our independent living facilities.

 

 

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Topics: Senior Health

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