Sleep Medicine Specialist Questions Sleep Apnea

How can I manage sleep apnea for my mother who is 70 years old?

My mom is 70 years old and has been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Although the doctor has prescribed some medications, it is only causing excessive drowsiness. I'm concerned for her health. What are natural ways to make lifestyle change and treat this condition?

4 Answers

The gold standard in the management of obstructive sleep apnea has been positive pressure treatment. If there are no significant cognitive issues, the management of OSA with positive pressure treatment is not hard. Insomnia can be a feature of sleep apnea and treatment of OSA can resolve this issue. Compliance with treatment is very important. The ideal thing would be 7 to 8 hours of usage of PAP every night for 7-8 hours. Use PAP during day time naps. Nap is a sleep.
Ordinarily sleep apnea is treated with devices such as a dental device or CPAP or perhaps oxygen , and medication is never used to treat sleep apnea. Associated conditions such as heart failure or nasal problems might be treated with medicine. There are no natural ways to treat sleep apnea because it is not treated with pills ; with the very large exception of weight loss and avoiding alcohol and sedatives. Sleep apnea causes sleepiness. It would be really helpful to talk to the treating doctor.
If the apneas are obstructive and your mother is overweight, then she should lose weight into the normal range for her age. If this does not help her drowsiness, she should be referred by her family doctor to a Sleep Medicine center. If her number of apneas/hypopneas is above the normal range and if her sleep is highly fragmented, she will no doubt have a trial on CPAP. She should avoid sleeping pills and alcohol, and also exercise regularly.
The fundamental treatment for sleep apnea is Continous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP). However, if that is not tolerated, then the following is recommended:

1. Weight loss (BMI less than 29)

2. Treating nasal congestion and allergies aggressively

3. Treating GERD and heart burn aggressively

4. Positional therapy; sleeping on side

5. Evaluating and treating anemia and thyroid disease.

Ultimately, my recommendation is to see a sleep specialist who can clinically assess your mother's condition and treat appropriatley.

Thanks,

Ahmed El-Bershawi, MD