5 Tips to Help Older Adults Prevent Sleep Apnea
The older people get, the more likely they are to develop sleeping difficulties, including what is known as sleep apnea. Signs your older loved one may have the disorder already include snoring, waking up exhausted, waking up multiple times in the night, or waking up with a headache or sore throat. If your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to make an appointment with the doctor, as the condition can lead to additional complications. There are also some things your loved one can do to prevent sleep apnea from occurring in the future.
1. Lose Weight
Not everyone who develops sleep apnea is overweight or obese, but people who have extra fat deposits in their neck and throat area are at a greater risk for developing it, especially seniors. If your loved one is overweight, simply losing a few extra pounds can prevent the condition. Losing weight can also enhance sleeping habits in general, so if your loved one has any other issues with getting some good quality rest at night, dropping a few pounds may be the solution.
2. Stop Smoking
People over 50 are at a greater risk for sleep apnea, especially if they’re male or have a family history of the condition. However, smokers of any age are at an even greater risk. In addition to contributing to sleep apnea, smoking can lead to various types of cancer, heart disease, various lung diseases, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Thankfully, it’s never too late to stop smoking. Encourage your loved one to talk to a doctor about ways to kick the habit as soon as possible.
3. Sleep On The Side
Sleeping on his or her back could increase your loved one’s risk for developing sleep apnea. The tongue and other tissues in the throat are more obstructive in this position, and some people who already have the condition only experience symptoms while they are sleeping on their backs. If your loved one is unable to sleep on the side, propping the head up at least 4 to 6 inches or sitting up at the waist while sleeping may alleviate the issue.
4. Exercise More
Getting plenty of exercise and staying active during the day leads to better quality sleep at night and can reduce the occurrence of insomnia. Exercising can also reduce the risk for sleep apnea and aid in weight loss efforts. Some yoga and resistance training moves even strengthen the muscles in the neck, which can keep sleep apnea at bay.
5. Don’t Eat Or Drink Just Before Bed
If your loved one likes to eat or drink just before bedtime, it may be time to break that habit. Caffeine before bed can disrupt sleep, but so can a large meal. If your loved one likes to have anything more than a small snack late at night, he or she should do so at least two to four hours before going to sleep. When food is consumed just before bed, it sits on the diaphragm, making it difficult to breathe while sleeping. Your loved one should also avoid drinking alcohol before bed, as it can relax the muscles needed for breathing, putting him or her at a greater risk for developing symptoms of sleep apnea.