The sleep apnea syndrome is now a well-established clinical entity. The condition is characterized by (1) snoring, episodes of apnea (cessation of breathing for 10 seconds or longer), and arterial oxygen desaturation during sleep; (2) excessive daytime sleepiness or, less frequently, insomnia; and (3) other signs and symptoms that may include memory loss, personality change, systemic hypertension, and impotence.1,2 Patients are most often middle-aged, obese men, but those stricken may be of any age, weight, or sex.
Following an initial report in 1974,3 recent studies have confirmed that episodes of hypopnea (a decrease in ventilation), as well as apnea, can occur in older persons during sleep. Such episodes have been referred to as sleep-related disordered breathing, since apnea may or may not be the only nocturnal respiratory disturbance. To our knowledge, all studies have indicated a high prevalence of asymptomatic sleep-related disordered breathing in older persons. Indeed, in
Littner M, McGinty D. Asymptomatic Disordered Breathing During Sleep in Older Persons: Disease or Not? Arch Intern Med. 1985;145(2):233–234. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.1985.00360020053009
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