Senior Health

9/22/2020 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder. The word “apnea” comes from the Greek and means “breathless.”

People with sleep apnea stop breathing for a short amount of time after they’ve fallen asleep; or they may continue to breathe but only in shallow breaths that are not sufficient to obtain enough oxygen.

After anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or two they wake up – so briefly that they might not even notice it – and their breathing resumes. However, there’s been an amount of time where no oxygen has been getting to the brain: which, of course, is not good.

This happens again and again throughout the night, with serious consequences for the sufferer.

About 6% of adults have sleep apnea, although that percentage may be higher since many people don’t realize they have a problem and don’t seek treatment. The condition is more often found in men than in women, and usually has an onset around the age of 55 to 60.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

When we sleep, our bodies relax. For some individuals, the muscles of the throat relax too much, and they block the breathing airway. This is called obstructive sleep apnea and is the most common form of the condition.

Central sleep apnea (CSA)

With central sleep apnea, the brain is the cause. For some reason, the brain doesn’t send out the signal to inhale, so the body in essence “forgets” to breathe. This condition is much rarer than OSA.

Mixed sleep apnea

The rarest condition is mixed sleep apnea in which OSA and CSA are combined.

What Is the Impact of Sleep Apnea?

Whether they realize they are waking up several times an hour or not, people with this sleeping disorder don’t get a lot of restorative sleep. As a result, they are usually always tired the next day. Excessive tiredness leads to irritability. A consistent lack of oxygen can give rise to other medical conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, heart attack, or stroke.

What Are The Warning Signs Of Sleep Apnea?

If any of the following symptoms present themselves, you may have sleep apnea and should go to a doctor to have it confirmed. You will probably be given a “sleep study” where you go to a specific building to sleep; here, sensors are fitted to various parts of your upper body to monitor your sleep patterns.

Loud snoring

A spouse or partner may be the first to realize that you have a sleep disorder. They will be woken up by your loud snoring; and as they try to get back to sleep they may be able to hear it when you stop breathing entirely – silence. Typically, there will be a sort of choking noise and then the snoring resumes as your breathing resumes.

Alternatively, as you nap during the day your spouse or partner may hear you stop and start breathing.

Morning headache

If you consistently awake with a headache, this could be a sign that you have not received enough oxygen – and expelled enough carbon dioxide – during sleep.

Constant waking

If you wake several times during the night – and not because you have to relieve yourself – this may be a sign.

Daytime sleepiness

You may be frequently tired throughout the day, even though you think you got your normal amount of sleep during the night.

Dry mouth

Assuming you’re not on some kind of medication with dry mouth as a side effect, consistently waking with a dry mouth could be a sign of sleep apnea.

Although this disorder only affects 6% of people – that’s still a lot of people! 6,000 people out of 100,000 people could have the condition – and again that percentage estimate is based only on those who have actually sought treatment! Many people don’t even realize they have sleep apnea, so it doesn’t factor in to that percentage!

If you have one or two of the symptoms listed above, be sure to go see your doctor. Once you’re able to resume normal, restorative sleep, you may be surprised at how better and energetic you will feel each and every day.

Not sure that’s the issue? Find other common sleep issues that impact seniors.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff