Sleep Apnea in Elderly Patients – What Do You Need to Know?

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0

Sleep Apnea in Elderly People

Aging is one of the contributing factors to obstructive sleep apnea. The elderly are continually at risk for developing this sleep disorder, which not only impairs physical health over time but also diminishes cognitive ability among aging adults.

Is Sleep Apnea More Common in the Elderly?

Daytime sleepiness and sleep apnea are common problems in older people, with sleep apnea affecting up to 20 percent of older adults. That’s because as the body grows older, muscles tend to weaken, including the ones in your airways. Many older adults also may see sleep loss as typical of aging and do not directly address the problem.

Causes of Sleep Apnea in Elderly

Age is the most common cause of elderly people developing sleep apnea. As you get older, your upper airway anatomy/collapsibility weakens, resulting in a higher chance of sleep apnea. Other causes include:

  • Obesity
  • Family history
  • Smoking and/or alcohol
  • Having other health issues

How Does Sleep Apnea Affect the Elderly?

Older adults with obstructive sleep apnea will develop excessive daytime sleepiness and can grow dependent on frequent daytime naps. Along with impaired attention, memory, response time, and performance, this population is also at an increased risk of falls because of mental impairment from sleep loss.

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in the Elderly?

Sleep apnea symptoms in the elderly are very similar to symptoms in patients of other ages.

  • Morning headaches
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Mental impairment from sleep loss
  • Episodes of waking up gasping for air

Is Sleep Apnea in the Elderly Deadly?

Sleep apnea does increase the risk of death in the elderly. The impact of sleep apnea on health, in general, elevates already existing health problems in the elderly. High blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes in elderly patients can become magnified by sleep deprivation which increases the risk of mortality.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea in the Elderly

There are many risk factors for sleep apnea in elderly patients. They include:

ageAge: As mentioned, the risk of developing sleep apnea increases as you get older, primarily in your 60s-70s.

sex iconsSex: Men are generally more likely to develop sleep apnea. Their risk of sleep apnea increases the further they get into adulthood.

person's neckHead and neck anatomy: Obstructive sleep apnea occurs more frequently in people who have specific anatomical features including a larger tongue and a shorter lower jaw.

scaleWeight: Those who have a higher body mass index (BMI) have an increased risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.

Nasal congestion: If you have difficulty breathing through your nose, you are at more risk of developing sleep apnea.

How To Treat Sleep Apnea in the Elderly

Sleep apnea treatment for the elderly is similar to treatment for patients of varied ages. CPAP therapy on a nightly basis helps keep the airway open to prevent apneas and improve sleep. CPAP compliance is critical to minimizing the symptoms of sleep apnea.

How Do I Test for Sleep Apnea in the Elderly at Home?

A sleep apnea polysomnography test in a lab is one way older patients can be tested for sleep apnea. A more convenient option, especially for elderly and less mobile patients, is a home sleep test. Home tests can be taken in the comfort of your own home and are just as accurate and less expensive than lab tests. Find Complete Sleep Care Packages at Sleep Care Online. These comprehensive packages take you through testing, diagnosis, and recommended treatments— all from home.

Order a Home Sleep Test


American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Risk of Death is High in Older Adults with Sleep Apnea and Daytime Sleepiness, April 2011.

Leave a Reply

Order Your Home Sleep Apnea Test Today