Somnolence is not exclusive to elderly patients, but it is a common accompaniment of the aging process.
Two medical problems occur with somnolence, or excessive sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. This means a stopping of breathing that lasts more than 10 seconds by obstruction of the passages in the upper airway. This occurs in people who are overweight and who have high blood pressure. In younger patients, it is more common in men than in women, but with advancing years, more women are sufferers. Loud snoring alone is not a disease problem, however disturbing it may be to a sleeping partner.
With obstructive sleep apnea, breathing stops, but the patient continues to struggle to breathe. Breathing restarts with a snort or a grunt rather than the gradual increase associated with periodic breathing. The patient remains unaware of these breathing problems, although he or she may note some fatigue during the day. Daytime sleepiness and confusion on awakening also occur.
Untreated sleep apnea may have serious health consequences. High blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems may be more common with this sleep disturbance. The nonmedical consequences of sleepiness that result from sleep apnea may be important as well. Impairment of the ability to operate a car may result in the loss of one’s driver’s license. Your physician may be legally required to report this impairment.
Important Points in Treatment
Sleep apnea is a serious problem. Stroke, heart attacks, decreased kidney function, and sudden death occur with sleep apnea. The diagnosis and management of sleep apnea are done at centers for the study of sleep disorders.
Treatment may involve changes in one’s lifestyle. Weight loss is important. Restriction on use of tobacco, alcohol, and many drugs can also be helpful. Treatment of conditions causing nasal congestion or inflammation may also be necessary.
Notify Our Office If ...
- You snore loudly with difficult or interrupted breathing.