Aged Care

Sleep Apnoea in Older Adults: Types, Causes, and Treatments

Have you ever felt tired even after waking up from a good night’s rest? If you do, probably you are suffering from a health condition called Sleep Apnoea. This disorder causes breathing to stop multiple times all through the night with lapses lasting for a few seconds to a few minutes.

According to data collected by Snore Australia – a scientific organisation researching about sleep disorders, 25 percent of men and 9 percent of women have been clinically diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea. This, however, does not include those who have symptomatic cases. On the other hand, the prevalence of this condition in the Australian continent is almost certainly rising because of obesity. Therefore, there is a huge chance that many still remain undiagnosed and untreated.

With millions around the world suffering from this sleep disorder, knowing the types and the causes of this condition are highly important to find the right method of treatment.


There are basically three types of sleep apnoea: obstructive, central, and mixed. These conditions have different causes and may require varied forms of treatment.

1. Obstructive

This might be the most common form, affecting about 4 percent of men and 2 percent of women, but medical experts believe that only 10 percent of those diagnosed with this condition have sought treatment. This clearly indicates how many do not take this disorder seriously.

OSA occurs when there is either a complete or partial blockage of airways whilst sleeping. Since muscles tend to relax during deep sleep, this allows fatty tissue in your tongue and throat to fall back. When this happens, blood flow will be reduced especially in the brain, thus causing you to wake up immediately.

Age and obesity are the primary causes of OSA. Meanwhile, enlarged tonsils and a narrow throat may also contribute to such condition. Vices like smoking and alcoholism are also known to exacerbate sleep apnoea.

Most would choose to get treated with a Positive Airway Pressure therapy. Other possibilities would include surgical procedures like various types of nasal surgery, uvulopalatopharyngoplasty with or without adenotonsillectomy, a variety of tongue reduction procedures, advancement of hyoid bone, surgical realignment and advancement of jaws as well as, attaching mandibular advancement devices and tongue-retaining mouthpieces.

2. Central

CSA is another form that is mainly caused by the failure of your breathing muscles to respond to brain signals. Although exact figures are totally unknown, 20 percent of diagnosed SA are classified as central sleep apnoea.

This medical condition is most likely caused by heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, obesity, and neurological conditions such as a brain infection or stroke. More common in men and older adults, those who are suffering from congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation are at a higher risk of developing this ailment.

When you are suffering from this condition, usually doctors will focus on treating the underlying cause. This includes using CPAP and BPAP machines, and an adaptive-servo ventilation device.

3. Mixed

This is a complex form of SA since this condition is a combination of both the obstructive and central forms. This may develop when someone with OSA will use PAP machines, thus increasing the difficulty of sleeping.

This condition may serve as a huge challenge for doctors. However, the treatment methods are similar to that of central sleep apnoea.


Signs and symptoms may vary from every person. However, most seniors might report any of these: restless sleep, snoring, extreme fatigue, recurrent lapses in breathing, emotional issues, and morning headaches.

Sleep apnoea, when left untreated, will lead to serious health risks including daytime fatigue, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems such as irregular heartbeat, hypertension, and stroke.

Aside from these medical treatments, you can turn to lifestyle changes such as shifting to a healthier diet and going through a weight loss programme. Commonly, these may lessen the occurrence of symptoms by a huge notch. Remember, sleep apnoea may pose a serious threat to seniors. Therefore, you must report any symptoms to your support workers in local aged care units and physicians for proper monitoring and treatment of this condition.

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