Sleep Apnea and Seniors

Sleep apnea is a common problem that affects people of all ages, including seniors. It is marked by short breaks in breathing or shallow breathing while sleeping, which can happen more than once during the night. These breathing problems can last from a few seconds to a few minutes, which makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep apnea in older people can have a significant impact on their health and well-being as a whole. Elder care providers and loved ones should monitor any concerns about seniors sleeping, especially if those concerns surround the possibility of sleep apnea.

Understanding Sleep Apnea

Elder Care Lexington MA - Sleep Apnea and Seniors
Elder Care Lexington MA – Sleep Apnea and Seniors

People are more likely to have sleep apnea as they get older. This trend is caused by a number of different things. First, sleep apnea is more likely to happen in seniors because of natural changes in their airways, such as less muscle tone, more throat tissue, and narrower airways. Also, health problems that are more common in seniors, like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, can increase the chance of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea’s most obvious and instant effect on seniors is too much daytime sleepiness, which can make it hard to focus. When focus wanes, everyday tasks are harder to complete, and more accidents might occur. Also, sleep apnea that isn’t treated has been linked to an increased chance of heart problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, which are already common health problems in seniors. Sleep apnea can also worsen other health problems, like diabetes, by changing insulin resistance and how the body uses glucose.

Detecting Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can be hard to spot in seniors because the symptoms mimic those of regular aging or other health problems. However, some typical signs to look out for are loud and constant snoring, gasping or choking during sleep, headaches in the morning, waking up often during the night, and feeling sleepy during the day. A sleep study is usually the best way to prove the diagnosis if sleep apnea is suspected. This can be done in a sleep clinic or even at home. It might be a good idea to have elder care professionals monitor seniors during the night to assess if the symptoms listed above are present.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Treatments for sleep apnea in seniors often depend on how bad the problem is. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the most frequent and effective treatment. It involves sleeping with a mask over the nose or mouth. The CPAP machine sends a slow flow of air into the airway to keep it open, forcing consistent breathing. Changes to their lifestyle, such as losing weight or encouraging them to sleep on their side instead of their back, may also help. Talking with a medical professional is essential to understand sleep apnea and its treatments fully.

Seniors, their elder care providers, and loved ones should do everything they can to understand sleep apnea and how they can help. This includes encouraging seniors to increase their physical fitness and eat healthy foods if weight is an issue or purchasing a body pillow that might encourage side sleeping. The quality of sleep and general health can improve with the right diagnosis and treatment.


If you or an aging loved one is considering Elder Care Services in Lexington MA or the surrounding areas please contact the caring staff at Visiting Nurse & Community Care today. (781) 643-6090