Sleep and Aging

Sleep apnea and snoring are two examples of sleep-disordered breathing -- conditions that make it more difficult to breathe during sleep. When severe, these disorders may cause people to wake up often at night and be drowsy during the day.


Snoring is a very common condition affecting nearly 40 percent of adults. It is more common among older people and those who are overweight. When severe, snoring not only causes frequent awakenings at night and daytime sleepiness, it can also disrupt a bed partner's sleep.

Snoring is caused by a partial blockage of the airway passage from the nose and mouth to the lungs. The blockage causes the tissues in these passages to vibrate, leading to the noise produced when someone snores.

Sleep Apnea: Two Types

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.