HealthSenior Lifestyle

Sleep Apnea and CPAP

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What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that can lead to the development of serious health problems if left untreated. People who have untreated sleep apnea repeatedly stop breathing during their sleep, sometimes this can occur hundreds of times throughout the night.

There are two types of sleep apnea, obstructive and central.

Senior Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea

This is the most common type. Obstructive sleep apnea can take place as repeated episodes of complete or partial blockage of the upper airway during sleep. When these episodes occur, the diaphragm and chest muscles are under increased pressure due to the blocked airway. Usually, breathing resumes with a body jerk or loud gasp. Therefore, apneic episodes can inhibit sound sleep, reduce oxygen flow to vital organs, and cause heart rhythm irregularities.

Central sleep apnea

In contrast to obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea is not caused by airway obstruction. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to signal to the muscles to enable breathing. This is caused by instability in the respiratory control center.

Risk factors

Sleep apnea can affect anyone however, certain characteristics may increase the likelihood of developing sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea

  • Obesity
  • Neck circumference
  • Narrow airways
  • Being male
  • Age
  • Family history
  • Alcohol, sedatives, and tranquillizers
  • Smoking
  • Nasal congestion
  • Medical conditions

Central sleep apnea

  • Age
  • Being male
  • Heart disorders
  • Narcotic pain medications
  • Stroke

Sleep apnea complications

  • Tiredness. The irregular sleep patterns that can occur with sleep apnea can cause severe daytime drowsiness, irritability, and fatigue.
  • High blood pressure. The drops in blood oxygen levels that can take place because of sleep apnea can lead to increased blood pressure and cardiovascular strain. These effects in combination put those with sleep apnea at risk of high blood pressure.
  • Heart problems. Recurrent heart attacks, stroke and abnormal heartbeats are potential complications.
  • Type II diabetes. Increased risk of developing insulin resistance and type II diabetes.
  • Metabolic syndrome. This syndrome has a close association with high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and high blood glucose.
  • Liver problems. People with sleep apnea have a higher chance of getting abnormal liver function test results.

Sleep testing procedure

Before being given treatment, you will require testing for sleep apnea.

Nocturnal polysomnography

  • This test will monitor your heart, brain, and lung function, breathing rate, limb movements and blood oxygen saturation whilst you sleep.

Home sleep tests

  • These tests are a simpler version of nocturnal polysomnography.
  • A portable monitoring device that measures your heart rate, blood oxygen saturation and airflow.

Non-machine treatment vs machine treatment

Non-machine treatment

Non-machine treatment is often in the form of mouthpieces,  which can help prevent snoring and sleep apnea. Your doctor may recommend this as an alternative to other treatments.

  • Mandibular advancement device (MAD). This is the most used sleep apnea mouth guard. These devices are snapped over the upper and lower mouth arches and have metal hinges that enable the lower jaw to be moved forwards.
  • Tongue retaining device. This is less common than a MAD. This device works as a splint to hold the tongue and keep the airway open.
Sleep Apnea CPAP for Seniors

Machine treatment

  • CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). These sleep apnea machines work by blowing air continuously down your throat to keep the airways open during sleep.
  • CPAP machines consist of three parts: a mask that is placed over the nose and mouth, a motor for blowing the air and a large tube that connects the mask and motor.
  • Benefits. Benefits of CPAP machines include reduced snoring, improved sleep quality, reduced daytime sleeping and lowered blood pressure.
  • Side effects. Some side effects may include, dry mouth, nasal congestion, nose irritations and soreness and stomach bloating.

The type of treatment that you use will be dependent on your sleep apnea type, severity, and personal preferences. Your doctor will help you decide which method is best for you and will show you how to use your equipment.

Here’s a really helpful instructional video from the Cleveland Clinic

  1. Mayo Clinic provides a detailed overview of sleep apnea, emphasizing the symptoms, risk factors, and different types of treatments available for both obstructive and central sleep apnea. The guide includes discussions on CPAP machines, lifestyle changes, and potential surgical options, which can help manage the condition more effectively. It highlights the importance of diagnosing and treating sleep apnea to avoid serious health complications such as heart issues and daytime fatigue. You can explore more about this on Mayo Clinic’s sleep apnea page here.
  2. Cleveland Clinic offers insights into the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, diagnostic methods, and the importance of treatment adherence. It discusses the use of CPAP machines, other airway pressure devices, and different kinds of masks that can help in managing the condition effectively. Additionally, the resource touches upon conservative treatments like weight management and positional therapy to alleviate symptoms. More information can be found on Cleveland Clinic’s sleep apnea resource here.
  3. Sleep Foundation addresses the clinical aspects of sleep apnea, providing a breakdown of symptoms, diagnosis procedures, and various treatment methodologies including CPAP and oral appliances. It also discusses lifestyle changes and minor surgeries as options to reduce sleep apnea symptoms. Their page also dives into the impacts of sleep apnea on overall health and the benefits of treatment. This information is available in detail at the Sleep Foundation’s website here.

About Author

Lamia A Kader, MD
Lamia A Kader is a Medical Doctor and a Medical Research Professional with a Ph.D. in Clinical Research. ISMMS, USA. She had enhanced her medical knowledge of medical devices and equipment development and innovation by attending clinical meetings, local national courses, journal clubs, and conferences, in addition to e-learning, subscribing to major medical journals and keeping an eye on latest trends in medicine and keeping an eye on clinical trials industry and healthcare marketing current trends. She had participated in several medical device innovation projects by conducting clinical research studies, developing clinical trial protocols, writing patient safety narratives and “Medical Device Risk Assessment Reports” to transform new medical technologies into real products that save and improve lives. Follow her on LINKEDIN. Read her LATEST POSTS. Learn more about her HERE.

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