Macomb County, MI – Home Care and Caregiving Services

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On January 20, 2013, Posted by , In Home Care,Sleep Apnea, By ,,, , With Comments Off on Macomb County, MI – Home Care and Caregiving Services

What Seniors Must Know About Sleep Apnea

Do you suddenly wake up gasping for breath in the middle of the night? Do you snore? Do you feel tired in the morning or during the day, even if as far as you know it you’ve had a good night’s rest? Then you probably have sleep apnea.

But what, exactly, is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea affects 20% of seniors in the US. It is a sleep disorder where a person stops breathing for certain periods during sleep. In obstructive sleep apnea, the soft tissues in the mouth and throat collapse and block the airway during sleep. In central sleep apnea, what stops the breathing is the brain’s failure to signal the body to breathe at regular intervals. But the common denominator of these various types of sleep apnea is that this temporary stoppage of breathing happens several times on a typical night, with each period lasting as long as 2 minutes. You don’t notice it because, after all, you’re supposedly fast asleep. But you suffer the eventual effects of oxygen deprivation: high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, stroke and heart attack. And of course, because your sleep is interrupted into fragments, you don’t get any rejuvenation from night-time slumber, thereby leaving you extremely tired or sleepy during the day.

We don’t have to spell it out for you that this combo of serious diseases as caused by sleep apnea significantly increases your health risk. The results of a 14-year study that involved hundreds of older people with untreated sleep apnea showed that 55% of the participants died within the 14-year period.

Severe sleepiness during the day

People with sleep apnea, regardless of age, naturally find it difficult to stay awake during the day. They are constantly in the fog of sleepiness, leaving them with significant cognitive deficits and functional impairments.

Having sleep apnea is tricky for seniors, as sleepiness and other symptoms are generally considered “normal” aspects of aging. Moreover, excessive sleepiness during day time makes seniors highly vulnerable to accidental falls, and this on top of other risk factors that seniors are already saddled with.

Sleep apnea mistaken as dementia

The symptoms are obvious, so obvious in fact that for most doctors, reaching an “aging-related dementia” diagnosis is just too easy. For instance, a senior may consult with a doctor regarding “waning attention,” or diminishing mental faculties: they could not just follow the twists and turns of any television show, or even simple conversations leave them out of the loop. This may be dementia, right? Except when you check the patient’s sleeping habits and it turns out to be something different: sleep apnea.

And because of the mistake of misdiagnosing sleep apnea, the real underlying disorder might go on untreated for months or years—meanwhile, sleep apnea continues to wreak havoc on the senior’s health, unnoticed.

The risk of sudden cardiac death

Several studies have shown that those seniors with sleep apnea are more likely to die n their sleep from heart-related problems. Researchers found that the pattern of people with sleep apnea is quite opposite that of the normal population, who tend to die during the day from the same array of heart-related disorders.

The bottom line: if you have the classic symptoms of sleep apnea, don’t dismiss it as “just a sleeping problem.” It is a serious condition that could have fatal consequences when left untreated, especially for seniors. But while there are no existing cut-and-dried medications for this condition, lifestyle modifications have been shown to cause some positive outcome. For example, as being overweight is apparently a risk factor, losing weight or watching what you eat can help. Your doctor can also prescribe certain oral appliances to stop the throat from closing or the tongue from falling back and causing an airway obstruction. Whatever the case, you should always consult a doctor.

Contact Pure Home Care Services at (586) 293-2457 today!  If you live in Macomb County or the surrounding area, we can help you care for your loved ones.

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