Struggling to get a good night’s sleep? This could be why

(KHON) – Sleeping is one of the most important things we do every day that has a direct effect on our health.

But millions of people don’t get enough of it, including seniors.

Getting a good night’s rest can be a challenge. Many experience frequent interruptions for different reasons, such as “anxiety and depression,” said Dr. Jamil Sulieman with The Sleep Lab. “We have illnesses — illnesses like chronic heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, Parkinson’s. They are associated with patterns of disrupted sleep.”

Another reason is sleep apnea.

“Sleep apnea, which is the chronic snoring, disruptive sleep, getting up at night to go to the bathroom and feeling fatigued throughout the day, is something they shouldn’t just accept as part of getting older,” Sulieman said.

While obesity is a common cause of sleep apnea in those under the age of 50, one’s age is also a contributing factor. As we get older, the muscles in our airway weaken and we see more collapsing. Those interruptions reduce oxygen flow to the brain and prevent deep sleep.

Warning signs include loud, persistent snoring, long pauses between breaths from seconds to minutes, and feeling tired when you’re awake.

“I have seen studies where over the course of the six hours or so that we’ve studied them, that people have 500 or 600 blockages,” Sulieman said.

Once diagnosed, patients are fitted with a CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.

“Your airways are collapsed, so all we’re doing is pushing air into the airway and keeping the airway open,” Sulieman explained.

Sulieman believes only 25 percent of people with sleep apnea are being treated so equipment and technology are constantly improving. The goal is to improve the quality of life.

“There’s an increased risk of poorly controlled high blood pressure, of irregular heart rhythms of heart attacks, of strokes, of kidney failure,” he said.

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