Today is Sleep Apnea Awareness Day and to draw attention to the impacts of sleep apnea on older people, HelloCare sat down with Australian Facial Reconstruction Surgeon, Doctor Paul Coceancig, who is a leader in offering prevention and cure for sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that is more prevalent in older adults, especially those over 60. It occurs when a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts while they sleep, leading to decreased oxygen levels and disrupted sleep patterns. Symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, gasping or choking during sleep, and excessive daytime sleepiness.
See how you can help curb the symptoms of sleep apnea and get a better night’s sleep.
How does sleep apnea affect older people?
Dr Coceancig: For older people, sleep apnea can result in cardiovascular problems, increased risk of some chronic diseases, cognitive impairment, poor quality of life and increased risk of falls due to daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
All of this can be particularly concerning for older adults who are already at a higher risk for these conditions due to age-related changes.
What should this demographic know about sleep apnea?
Dr Coceancig: A common primary cause of sleep apnea is a small jaw.
Older adults are also more likely to develop sleep apnea due to factors such as increased weight, decreased muscle tone, and changes in the structure of the airway.
It can also affect a person’s quality of life by causing daytime fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
How can older people identify and manage sleep apnea?
Dr Coceancig: I recommend that you seek the advice of a healthcare professional as a sleep study can be conducted to determine and diagnose sleep apnea.
For older people, it’s important to note that surgery is not an option for treatment.
Treatment options for sleep apnea may include lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and exercise, avoiding alcohol and sedatives, sleeping on your side, or the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to keep the airway open during sleep.
How can older people get a better night’s sleep?
Dr Coceancig: Older people especially can be prone to sleep disturbances. I would recommend creating a bedtime routine, sticking to a sleep schedule, limiting caffeine, light daily exercise, managing stress, avoiding daytime naps and most importantly consulting with a healthcare professional.