Sleep Apnea Dangers for Seniors

Sleep apnea and excessive daytime sleepiness not only lead to foggy days, but increase the risk of death for people 65 years and older. A recent study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania Health System showed the combination of the two disorders significantly increased the risk.

The study conducted from 1993 through 1998 revealed that suffers of both sleep apnea and excessive daytime sleepiness were two times more likely to die than those who complained of just one of these disorders.

Half of the participants experienced high levels of excessive daytime sleepiness. The problem, believed to be a normal effect of aging, creates a greater chance of falling, cognitive deficits, and functional impairments.

Participants underwent sleep apnea testing.  Sleep apnea affects up to 20 percent of older adults. Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of sleep apnea, occurs when soft tissues in the mouth and throat collapse and block the airway during sleep.  Older people can also suffer from central sleep apnea.  This condition involves the brain not signaling the body to breathe at regular intervals. Only four percent of the participants in the study suffered this condition.

Researchers followed up on the participants in 2009. Fifty-five percent died during the fourteen-year follow-up period with two to one having both disorders. It is unclear why the combination of excessive daytime sleepiness and sleep apnea increases the risk of death in older people.  Further research will be conducted on older people who receive treatment for sleep apnea .

Obstructive sleep apnea can be treated  with a CPAP, a device that generates a steady flow of air, allowing the person suffering from this condition to obtain restful sleep.  I’m Dr. James Stewart, a Livonia dentist. I help patients overcome obstructive sleep apnea. If you suffer from sleepless nights, contact my Livonia dental office at (734)425-4400 for a consultation. I will determine the best treatment for your needs.