As a wise individual once said, getting old isn’t for the faint of heart. With time comes a handful of age-related complications that can impact many areas of our lives, including our sleeping patterns. As we age, factors such as medications, the need to urinate and restless leg syndrome are more likely to impair our nightly sleep cycle.
Consequently, we often hear older adults express frustration over their decreasing sleep quality. Though this may be attributed to harmless, age-related issues, the problem of non restorative rest can sometimes be indicative of a more serious underlying condition. If you’re waking up feeling unrested, you may be suffering from sleep apnea.
There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax and droop during sleep, blocking the airway and causing breathing difficulty. It is by far the most common form of the disorder. Central sleep apnea is the result of the brain failing to properly control breathing during sleep; this is rare.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that occurs when the upper airway becomes blocked, resulting in a limited air supply to the body’s major organs. This condition can affect individuals of all demographics, but becomes more relevant with increasing age and weight. Older individuals are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea due to declining muscle tone in the areas surrounding the airways.
Sleep apnea can be hard to diagnose without the evaluation of sleep expert, and the condition is often mistaken as harmless snoring. However, understanding the additional symptoms associated with sleep apnea can help you to identify the condition. If you have sleep apnea, you might exhibit the following symptoms upon waking:
- Feeling unrested
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sore throat after waking up
If you suspect you may be suffering from sleep apnea, you should seek medical attention from an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor. When left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to the development of serious health conditions, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Fortunately, sleep apnea treatment can effectively cure the condition.
You may be able to reduce the severity of your symptoms by implementing certain lifestyle changes. Try losing weight, cutting back or eliminating alcohol (especially before bedtime) and quitting smoking. Sleeping on your side instead of your back and elevating your head may also help.
The preferred method of treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This involves controlled bursts of air being pumped into your throat while you sleep, delivered through a mask that is worn over the nose and mouth and attached to a machine. Other options for treatment include oral mouth guards that reposition the lower jaw and tongue, nasal breathing strips and surgery.
To learn more about sleep apnea treatment options, or to schedule a consultation with Houston’s best ENT professionals, contact our team at 713-795-5343.