Sleep and Aging

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is an example of sleep-disordered breathing – a condition that makes it more difficult to breathe during sleep. When severe, sleep-disordered breathing disorders may cause people to wake up often at night and be drowsy during the day.

Two Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two kinds of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

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.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Symptoms of sleep apnea include

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea can affect anyone, but certain factors can put one at increased risk. Risk factors for sleep apnea include

Reducing Your Risk

Obesity is the number one risk factor for sleep apnea, and you may be able to reduce your risk for sleep apnea by maintaining an appropriate weight. If you are not overweight, try to maintain an appropriate weight through proper diet and exercise. Limit alcohol intake and avoid taking sedative medications that can increase the number of sleep apnea episodes you have each night and can make sleep apnea worse. Heavy smokers are more likely to develop sleep apnea than nonsmokers. If you smoke, quit.