Senior Health Sleep Issues: Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Seniors with sleep apnea get woken up many times a night. It is one of the more serious senior health sleep issues, but it can affect people of all ages. Due to this sleep disorder, the sleep pattern is changed by an obstruction or a neurological disturbance. Such disturbances drain the body and mind of resources, and can cause injuries, vehicular accidents for those who drive, and heart attacks or stokes.

People try to help themselves sleep better by taking a nightcap or sleeping pills, but these can exacerbate the sleep apnea. There reason for this is that anything that relaxes the muscles at the back of the throat will make it more likely for obstructive sleep apnea to occur. It would be more productive to learn about activities to do before sleeping that tighten the muscles at the back of the throat . These include throat exercises such as singing, or holding a pencil in between the teeth. Senior health sleep issues can be improved, by becoming informed and sticking to a treatment regime.


Senior health sleep issues night image - we'd rather be sleeping

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is characterized by a person’s breathing stopping and starting repeatedly during their sleep. The person who has the condition may not know that it happens because they are sleeping. It is often a different person who hears them snoring or sees that they have a disturbed sleep pattern. Some people discover how well they are sleeping by recording themselves while they sleep.

What might be heard in that recording?

Snoring, snorting followed by choking or gasping sounds – these would be warning signs of sleep apnea.

Two Types of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) – there is an obstruction blocking the airway during sleep. This is the more common type. It is usually accompanied by snoring. Tongue, tonsils or other body tissues obstruct the airway when a person tries to breathe.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) – the brain forgets to send a signal to muscles that activate the breathing. This is the less common type. It is not usually accompanied by snoring.

Each type of apnea has its own cures and treatments. These range from easy-to-arrange self-help remedies, to surgical operations as a last resort.

Signs of Sleep Apnea

These can be a sign of sleep apnea, says the National Sleep Foundation.

You or another person reports or feels about your sleep:

  • Loud snoring that leaves a person feeling tired during the day; it may be associated with high blood pressure and other health issues,
  • A person stops breathing.
  • Loud or gasping noises.
  • Waking up at night with a feeling of feeling shortness of breath.
  • Tired by day in spite of sufficient hours in bed by night
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening
  • Frequent nocturnal bathroom visits
  • Poor quality, restless sleep
  • Headaches in the morning

When Should One Talk to a Doctor?

Sleep apnea can become quite serious, so the symptoms should not be laughed off with with an apology. If it is not treated, the outcome of sleep apnea can include depression, memory loss, headaches and cardiovascular disease.

If a condition disturbs your sleep or disturbs how you function during the day, it is worthwhile to speak to a doctor.

Simple Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

There are many types of sleep disturbances. Here are a few simple tips that combat waking up at night. Try using these tips and hopefully you can enjoy sleeping all night:

Dark – If the room is dark when you go to sleep it helps give your body the message that it is night time and it is time to sleep. The body runs its own internal clock with a sleep-wake cycle known as the ‘circadian rhythm’. By darkening the room you can help your body clock work better. Sleep experts recommend using heavy, dark curtains to block out the day light. When? For those long summer days when you are ready sleep when it is still light outside and don’t want to be up with the birds at dawn.

Devices – Remove all devices that emit blue light, an hour before you sleep. The blue light suppresses the sleep hormone called ‘melatonin’. You could relax before sleeping in a different way, such as by reading a book or listening to soft music.

Diet – Eat healthily during the day, including whole foods such as whole wheat bread and whole grain rice, in your diet. Avoiding foods high in sugar will help keep your energy levels at an even keel throughout the day and night, allowing you to sleep better when it is time to sleep.

Daily exercise – Exercise each day for a reasonable amount of time, at least 10 minutes. Regular exercise can improve the quality of your sleep and help avoid sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Note: If exercising in the evening, it is recommended not to do energizing exercises right before bed time, but rather, save those for the morning.

Invest in Better Sleep

Getting better sleep is an investment. It can improve the quality of life in general, and energy levels every day. Identifying and treating sleep apnea, one of the senior health sleep issues, is a wise move. Often, lifestyle changes towards a healthier lifestyle can help, as well as following tips for a better sleep. Investigate throat exercises and various sleep apnea treatment options by finding a sleep center in the U.S.


Original Photo by Gabriele Motter on Unsplash