Sleep apnea treatment is effective for older people

August 26, 2014
Illustration of obstruction of ventilation. Credit: Habib M’henni / public domain

Continuous positive airway pressure is effective at treating sleep apnoea in older people, a new study has found.

Obstructive (OSA) is a condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing and causing profound sleepiness. For people with moderate or severe OSA, doctors usually recommend using a continuous positive (CPAP) device, which consists of a small pump that delivers pressurised air into the nose through a mask, stopping the throat from closing.

Previous studies have established the benefits of CPAP in middle-aged people with OSA, but until now there has been no research on whether the treatment is useful and cost-effective for .

The new research found that CPAP reduces how sleepy patients feel in the daytime and reduces healthcare costs. The researchers say CPAP should be offered routinely to older patients with OSA, and more should be done to raise awareness of the condition.

The study, published today in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, involved 278 patients aged 65 or over at 14 NHS centres in the UK. It was led by researchers at Imperial College London and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in collaboration with the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit at UCL, and the Universities of Oxford and York. It was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Programme.

Around 20 per cent of the adult population experiences breathing problems during sleep. In four to five per cent of middle-aged people, these problems lead to sleepiness in the daytime, classified as syndrome. The condition is thought to be more common in older people, but the true prevalence is unknown, in part because patients and their relatives may attribute their sleepiness to old age, or older people can compensate by napping. The disease is becoming more common because obesity is a major risk factor.

Professor Mary Morrell, co-principal investigator of the study from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said: "Sleep apnoea can be hugely damaging to patients' quality of life and increase their risk of road accidents, heart disease and other conditions. Lots of might benefit from this treatment. Many patients feel rejuvenated after using CPAP because they're able to sleep much better and it may even improve their brain function."

Patients with sleep apnoea sometimes stop breathing for 30 seconds or longer at night before they wake up and start breathing again. In these pauses, their blood oxygen levels fall.

The video will load shortly
Understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (HD) Credit: A film by the Wellcome Trust

"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. We're currently researching whether treatment can prevent or reverse those changes," said Professor Morrell.

Co-principal investigator Dr.Renata Riha, Consultant and Honorary Reader at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, added that spans many disciplines and comprises an important area of research which deserves support and greater recognition by funding bodies, universities and public policy makers. "Sleep disorders, such as apnoea, impact on a wide variety of chronic conditions, potentially leading to their development or worsening them, including diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and possibly even cancer. Successful treatment diminishes this risk but we still have a great deal of work to do in the area," she said.

Explore further: CPAP improves work productivity for sleep apnea patients

More information: A. McMillan et al. 'Continuous positive airway pressure in older people with obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (PREDICT): a 12-month, multicentre, randomised trial.' Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Published Online 25 August 2014. dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(14)70172-9

Related Stories

CPAP improves work productivity for sleep apnea patients

April 10, 2013
Continuous positive airway pressure is effective at increasing work productivity, according to a new study.

American College of Physicians releases new recommendations for treating obstructive sleep apnea

September 23, 2013
People diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) should lose weight and use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) as initial therapy, according to new recommendations from the American College of Physicians (ACP) ...

CPAP superior to supplemental oxygen for BP reduction in obstructive sleep apnea

June 11, 2014
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), the most widely prescribed therapy for treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, resulted in significantly lower blood pressure compared to either nocturnal supplemental oxygen or an ...

Family support may improve adherence to CPAP therapy for sleep apnea

May 29, 2014
A new study suggests that people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who are single or have unsupportive family relationships may be less likely to adhere to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy.

CPAP found to improve sexual function, satisfaction in men with sleep apnea

June 13, 2012
Men who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are seeing another potential benefit from continuous positive airway pressure therapy, or CPAP: improved sexual function and satisfaction in non-diabetic men under age 60.

Electronic nose could be used to detect sleep apnoea

October 25, 2012
An electronic nose, used to detect the presence of molecules in the breath of a patient, could be used to diagnose obstructive sleep apnoea.

Recommended for you

Anti-nausea drug could help treat sleep apnea

June 6, 2017
An old pharmaceutical product may be a new treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, according to new research presented today by University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University scientists at the SLEEP 2017 annual ...

New disposable, wearable patch found to effectively detect sleep apnea

June 4, 2017
Results of a definitive clinical trial show that a new, disposable diagnostic patch effectively detects obstructive sleep apnea across all severity levels.

Childhood sleep apnoea is common but hard to diagnose

April 28, 2017
The cessation of breathing during sleep caused by enlarged tonsils is common in preschool-age children and can cause serious complications, but the methods normally used to diagnose the condition are subjective and unreliable. ...

Curbing sleep apnea might mean fewer night trips to bathroom

March 27, 2017
(HealthDay)—Millions of Americans battle bothersome nighttime conditions, such as sleep apnea or the need to get up frequently to urinate.

Untreated sleep apnea in children can harm brain cells tied to cognition and mood

March 17, 2017
A study comparing children between 7 and 11 years of age who have moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnea to children the same age who slept normally, found significant reductions of gray matter - brain cells involved ...

Dietary supplement derived from tree bark shows promise for treating obstructive sleep apnea

February 24, 2017
Obstructive sleep apnea, which causes people to briefly stop breathing while asleep, affects an estimated 5 percent of the population, not including the many more who don't even realize they suffer from the disorder.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.