Sleep Apnea in the Elderly

Sleep Apnea is a common sleeping disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It can affect people of all ages, but is most often found in people who are older. The most common characteristic of sleep apnea is poverty of breath while sleeping. Patients who have the disorder may never receive a great night’s sleep due to the constant change in their breathing patterns throughout the night. Sleep apnea is fairly common, especially in the elderly, and it can be treated. If you or your elderly relatives suffer from sleep apnea then contact a sleep disorder center soon to develop a proper treatment plan. With the right treatment plan, you can easily get a great night’s sleep and improve your overall health.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two main types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common type, and is often caused by a blockage or obstruction of the airway. This can occur when the soft tissue located in the back of your throat grows weak and collapses whenever you fall into a deep sleep. The majority of the people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are overweight. Being overweight is a large risk factor for developing obstructive sleep apnea. Overweight patients have larger amounts of fat in their necks and around their airways. This extra adipose tissue can partially obstruct their airways at night while they are sleeping and cause apnea episodes.

Central sleep apnea is a type of sleep apnea that is caused by a disruption in a person’s brain signals. Patients who have central sleep apnea fail to receive a signal from their brains to breathe. Their respiratory control center in their brains is faulty and they may have numerous apnea episodes each night due to the lack of signaling.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is a highly undiagnosed disorder. Most people who suffer from this disorder, do not even know it. If you do not sleep with someone else, then you may be unaware of your pauses in breathing throughout the night. For years, you could have symptoms of sleep apnea in your sleep and be completely unaware. If you do live by yourself and you have not been feeling quite that rested for a while, then you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Here are a few other common symptoms of sleep apnea:

  • Headaches in the morning
  • Waking up frequently throughout the night
  • Waking up choking or gasping for air
  • Snoring loudly
  • Having a sore throat in the mornings
  • Forgetfulness
  • Insomnia

Any changes in your sleeping patterns should be reported to your doctor. Changing in your sleeping pattern could be a sign of numerous different illnesses or issues. If you do have many of these symptoms, then you could be suffering from sleep apnea and need treatment. Without treatment, you will not be able to get a good night’s sleep and your health could start to slowly deteriorate.

The elderly population is at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea than the younger generation. As people age, their muscle tone weakens. This includes muscles in the upper neck and head that help keep your airways open. As you fall asleep, your muscles will relax, and if you have weakened muscle tone then you could easily develop obstructive sleep apnea. Overweight elderly populations have an extremely high risk of developing obstruction sleep apnea.

Elderly patients who suffer from disease that affect their brain and neural signaling pathways such as Parkinson’s disease are at greater risk for developing central sleep apnea. Their signaling pathways may already be affected by their disease process, so their respiratory control center could be affected.

Treatment of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea has many treatment options. Often simple lifestyle changes and adding mouthpieces or breathing devices to your nightly routine can greatly improve your life. People with obstructive sleep apnea often undergo a change in their sleeping patterns if they lose weight, avoid alcohol, sleep on their sides, and quit smoking. If these simple lifestyle changes do not work, then doctors may prescribe simple mouthpieces or breathing devices. CPAP machines are common for patients with obstructive and central sleep apnea. A simple face mask will fit over your fact and will gently blow air into the back of your throat to keep your airways open throughout the night. CPAP machines treat both types of sleep apnea by keeping a constant flow of air in your throat. Even if you do experience apnea episodes throughout the night, your body will never feel a drop in oxygen. For severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea, surgery is an option that can remove any type of obstruction in your throat.

Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Untreated sleep apnea can be extremely serious. Patients who suffer for years will not only feel fatigued often, but will also be at a greater risk for developing other illnesses and issues. Both types of sleep apnea can cause the following issues if left untreated:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Failure
  • Heart Arrhythmias
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Dementia
  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Poor Performance at Work or School

If you suffer from sleep apnea, then it is important to talk with your doctor. If left untreated, you could develop more serious health issues.

Sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder affects millions of people all around the world. It is most commonly found in the elderly population and in overweight people. As people age, their muscles weaken and they are at a higher risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea. If they are overweight, then they will have a greater risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea due to extra adipose tissue in their necks. If you believe that you may have sleep apnea, or if you think one of your elderly relatives could be suffering from this sleeping disorder then talk to a doctor immediately. Sleep apnea is easily treated, and with treatment you could go back to feeling rested and lower your risk for many other medical conditions.

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