People who snore rarely know it until someone tells them. Then they are likely to deny it. That’s because we can’t hear ourselves snore. Grown ups must, eventually, believe the testimony of their long-suffering bedfellows.
People over 65 snore more often and louder, but this is not related to age. It’s related to other things that happen in old age, especially an increased use of medications, excess body fat, lack of exercise, and chronic congestion. And seniors are not the only snorers. According to Harvard Health, ninety million Americans snore. And there are snorers of all ages, including children.
Snoring might be funny, until it’s sleep apnea
Jokes about partner snoring are the prerogatives of all long-term spouses. But snoring related to sleep apnea is not funny, because sleep apnea can lead to sudden death. During a sleep apnea episode, a loved one quits breathing.
A relaxation of the throat muscles that blocks the airway can cause breathing to stop. This is called “obstructive sleep apnea.” By contrast, “central” sleep apnea happens when the brain stops sending messages to the patient’s body to keep breathing.
A senior might have sleep apnea if he awakes not feeling rested, awakes frequently during the night, and/or has morning headaches. Elder care professionals, who administer at home care for seniors, can be useful in reporting whether your senior is tired all day for no apparent reason. These elder care pros can also report on headaches and other possible symptoms of sleep apnea.
Many sleep apnea patients benefit from the observation of spouses who can tell them if they stop snoring suddenly during the night. This is a clear sign of sleep apnea. If the snorer stops snoring very abruptly, he has likely also stopped breathing.
The good news is that sleep apnea is very treatable with a CPAP machine that provides continuous positive airway pressure. These machines hook up to the patient’s nose and force air into his lungs so that breathing continues regardless.
What if it’s just snoring?
A sleep test, conducted at a clinic, can tell whether snoring is just snoring or sleep apnea. If sleep apnea is ruled out, the snorer still has several other recourses. Losing weight often helps because it thins out the throat tissues that narrow during sleep. Patients who quit smoking and drinking alcohol also experience relief.
Quite a bit of snoring is related to congestion which could stem from allergies, chronic bronchitis, a deviated nasal septum, or another issue. In these cases, medications to treat the congestion may stop the snoring. Surgery can correct deviated septums.
In some cases, snoring is not related to lifestyle but to heredity or the structure of the nose or mouth. Such snoring may not be detrimental to health, but still detrimental to a relationship with one’s spouse. In that case, couples should decide together whether to seek medical or other treatments which might include mouth exercises to minimize throat tissue relaxation or even mouthpieces which prevent snoring.
To conclude, snoring might be a serious health condition requiring treatment, or it might not. To be safe, a senior may be wise to get a sleep test. If sleep apnea is diagnosed, a CPAP machine will lower the risks of death related to this disorder. An elder care professional can help your senior hook up to his CPAP and remind him to use it, even when just taking a nap.