Seniors and Sleep Apnea—Important Information For Every Caregiver
We all need sleep. There is no secret that one of the key components to overall health and wellbeing is a good night’s sleep. As we age, that need for sleep only increases. Unfortunately, while the average adult needs around eight hours of sleep per night, the average senior isn’t getting that much rest. This lack of sleep can impact everything from weight to cognitive function, memory and emotional health. This is why senior caregivers need to be aware of some of the most common issues that can disrupt their loved one’s sleep. One of these common issues is sleep apnea—a disorder that impacts many seniors today and interrupts their nightly breathing.
Here are some important facts that every senior should know about sleep apnea.
- Sleep apnea can impact people of all ages, but the risk is higher for those over the age of 40.
- This condition is actually linked to early-onset Alzheimer’s, which is why it is so important for seniors to be educated about sleep apnea.
- Sleep apnea actually pauses your breathing for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, often waking people up in the middle of their rest.
- The easiest way to diagnose sleep apnea is to have a spouse or family member witness the individual sleeping so they can notice their sleep disturbances. Many people who have sleep apnea do not realize this is going on.
- Other warning signs of sleep apnea are daytime sleepiness, headaches, and other cognitive difficulties
- An overnight sleep study is needed to make the diagnosis
- Sleep apnea can have some serious risks associated with it, including an increased risk for stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
- Lower libido and erectile dysfunction have often been linked to sleep apnea.
- Those who are not getting enough rest because of their sleep apnea may have hormonal imbalances and struggle to regulate their metabolism and feelings of hunger—which is why obesity is often linked to sleep apnea as well.
- Many times, a sleep study is done to diagnose sleep apnea. This is the most effective way to make sure that some other issue isn’t to blame.
- A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine or a CPAP is the most common treatment prescribed for those with sleep apnea. It is a mask that you wear over your face that helps regulate breathing.
The good news is, sleep apnea is relatively easy to diagnose and treat and many seniors are able to see almost instant results once they have a CPAP machine. If you are worried your loved one might be suffering from sleep apnea, it is important that you get them into their medical doctor as soon as you are able. There are a number of different treatments available for sleep apnea that can help seniors start enjoying the quality night of rest that deserve.
- Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place for her senior research project and placed in the 98th percentile on the national exam for OB/GYN residents in the U.S..
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