Sleep Apnea & Seniors

According to the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, as we age, we are more likely to develop sleep apnea. According to a home health care professional as the US population grows older, it’s imperative for caregivers to familiarize themselves with the common symptoms of sleep disrupting disorder.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where the individual repeatedly halts their breathing whether from a physical or mental obstruction.

What are the main types of sleep apnea?

There are three main forms of sleep apnea: central, obstructive, and complex.

‣ Obstructive: This is the most common form of sleep apnea, also known as OSA. It occurs when there is an obstruction within the mouth and throat.

‣ Central: With this form, the obstruction is a neurological hurdle, causing the body to simply stop breathing without any physical obstruction.

‣ Complex: This form of apnea actually combines both previously mentioned forms. 

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

As seniors are more likely to develop OSA, the following will explore the symptoms of this particular type of apnea. 

Loud snoring

This is probably one of the easiest markers of sleep apnea. Thunderous snoring provides an audible example of the obstruction. While a senior can not often tell if they are snoring, a partner, caregiver, or home care assistant can definitely witness this symptom!

Gasping or snorting for air

The obstruction that causes the snoring will often be followed by a sudden gasp or snort from the senior. This is the body kicking into overdrive, forcing breath through the individual’s mouth.

Dry Mouth

If airwaves are being obstructed during the night, then the senior is more likely to awaken with the sensation of a dry mouth. This is because the obstruction causes the body to force inhalations through the mouth, also known as forced mouth breathing. This dries out any coating within the throat, causing an uncomfortable dry throat when the senior awakens.

Lethargy during the day

Another common sign of OSA is if the elderly individual feels drained and tired during the day. This is because sleep is being continually interrupted at night, causing the individual to feel less rested during the day.


If your loved one is not getting a good night’s rest, it’s probably making them a little more cranky than usual. When paired with the aforementioned symptoms, increased irritability is a common signifier of OSA.