Sleep apnea is a disorder that seems to have become more common over the years, but how does it impact seniors? Anything that disrupts sleep can leave a person of any age facing a tougher day. Lack of sleep can impact not only cognitive abilities and emotions, but weight as well. Sleep apnea definitely affects sleep without proper treatment, but even more concerning is that it has been linked to the possible early onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Sleep apnea is more prominent in those over 40, although anyone of any age can have the condition. While it is treatable, it's especially important that seniors are aware of the sleep disorder, what it is, and the risks.
Sleep apnea is a condition that pauses a person's breathing for a few seconds, or even two or three minutes. According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep apnea is a dysfunction of the central nervous system which interrupts breathing for a period. This condition is sometimes difficult to diagnose because the person with the condition doesn't realize it's happening during their sleep. A doctor can test for sleep apnea, which is important if a spouse or family member has noticed that their loved one quit breathing for a time during the night.
The risks for seniors who have sleep apnea may include not only tiredness and reduced cognitive ability, but also heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and more. For men, sleep apnea can impact libido and contribute to erectile dysfunction. This is why it is so important to see a doctor if you or a family member suspects sleep apnea.
Treatment of sleep apnea involves your doctor ordering a sleep study so that it can be determined if you do have the disorder. Once diagnosed, most patients are fitted for a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device, commonly known as a CPAP. While it takes getting used to initially, most people are astounded by how much better they sleep and their ability to function the next day following an uninterrupted night's sleep.
If you suspect your aging loved one has sleep apnea, discuss it with his or her doctor right away. This sleep disturbance is one that can be dangerous, particularly for seniors.
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