Sleep and Aging

Frequently Asked Questions

14. What is obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when air entering from the nose or mouth is either partially or completely blocked, usually because of obesity or extra tissue in the back of the throat and mouth. If these episodes occur frequently or are severe, they may cause a person to wake up frequently throughout the night. This may disrupt their sleep and make them sleepy during the day.

Obstructive sleep apnea is more common among older adults and among people who are significantly overweight. Obstructive sleep apnea can increase a person's risk for high blood pressure, strokes, heart disease, and cognitive problems. However, more research is needed to understand the long-term consequences of obstructive sleep apnea in older adults.