NFL legend Reggie White died in his sleep at the early age of 43. Although the medical examiner who performed an autopsy on White said a “fatal cardiac arrhythmia” was the cause of death there may have been another contributing factor: sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which a person has one or more cessations in breathing, or otherwise shallow breaths, while sleeping. These pauses can last a few seconds to minutes at a time and may occur 30 or more times per hour. When breathing resumes there is sometimes a loud snort or choking sound. Sleep apnea is normally chronic in nature and disrupts sleep causing one to move from deep sleep into light sleep.
Since sleep apnea occurs during sleep, it is often undiagnosed although there is a clear sign that can indicate the disease: snoring while sleeping.
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused when the airway becomes blocked. Air that squeezes past this obstruction can cause snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea is most often found in those who are overweight but can also occur in young children as the result of swollen tonsil tissue.
AARP The Magazine offers other signs to look out for:
- Exhaustion. Daytime exhaustion is another often overlooked indicator of sleep apnea. If you’re getting eight to nine hours of sleep a night and still feel sluggish all day, sleep apnea could be a factor.
- High blood pressure. When your body is constantly deprived of oxygen in the night it goes into fight or flight mode raising blood pressure. Over time your blood pressure doesn’t decline, staying constantly elevated and leading to hypertension.
- Frequent urination during the night. According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, frequent nighttime urination affects nearly 65 percent of adults between the ages of 55 and 84. While this behavior, known as nocturia, can be the result of aging, it can also be a hint to sleep apnea. The fight or flight response activated by lack of oxygen can also trigger a feeling of fullness in the bladder.
- Waking with a headache. Sleep apnea deprives the brain of oxygen resulting in pain. The Archives of Internal Medicine published a study that suggests as sleep apnea becomes more frequent and severe that these headaches will worsen.
- Overweight or obese. Weight is a factor. Up to 67 percent of people diagnosed with sleep apnea are overweight. Excess fat blocks the airways. Losing weight may help improve sleep apnea, but may not correct it.
If you have an aging loved one who’s quality of life is diminished due to recent diagnosis of sleep apnea, consult a senior care provider, such as Physicians Choice Private Duty, serving Omaha, Nebraska and surrounding areas.
“Physicians Choice Private Duty solves the challenges families face in caring for aging parents, with a focus on strategies that keep them in their homes. To learn more about our solutions, visit us today..”