Aug 27, 2014 09:28 AM EDT
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Effective in Treating Sleep Apnea in Older People, Study
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is effective in treating sleep apnea in older people, according to a study led by Imperial College London.
Around 20 percent of adults experience breathing problems during sleep. These problems in turn trigger sleepiness during day time, classified as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) syndrome. The condition involves narrowing and relaxation of the walls of the throat - interrupting normal breathing and causing profound sleepiness.
Obesity is a major risk factor for the disease that is most common among older people.
Co-principal investigator Dr.Renata Riha, Consultant and Honorary Reader at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, said that sleep disorders like sleep apnea play a crucial role either in the development or worsening existing illnesses including diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.
Doctors usually recommend the CPAP device for patients with moderate or severe OSA. CPAP device consists of a small pump that emits pressurized air into the nose through a mask and prevents the throat from closing.
Previous studies showed the benefits of CPAP in middle-aged people with OSA. Until now, there has been no research on the effects of treatment on older patients. The new research found that CPAP reduces how sleepy patients feel in the day time and healthcare costs.
For the study, the researchers observed 278 patients, aged 65 ears or above, at 14 NHS centres in the UK.
"Sleep apnea can be hugely damaging to patients' quality of life and increase their risk of road accidents, heart disease and other conditions.. Many patients feel rejuvenated after using CPAP because they're able to sleep much better and it may even improve their brain function," Professor Mary Morrell, co-principal investigator of the study from the National Heart and Lung Institute, said in a press release.
The researchers said that the patients sometimes during their sleep stop breathing for 30 seconds or longer, causing their blood oxygen levels to fall.
"We think low oxygen levels at night might accelerate cognitive decline in old people, and studies have found that sleep apnoea causes changes in the grey matter in the brain," said Morrell.
The study, published today in Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
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