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Could Sleep Apnea be Behind the Falls That Elderly People Experience?

Elderly PeopleMost of us have heard of elderly persons falling down and severely injuring themselves. In some cases the resulting injury may involve broken bones and long recuperation times. Eldercare facilities have for some time reported on the incidents of falling-asleep-related injured falls and are concern to control these occurrences.

We now know that some of the benefits of treating obstructive sleep apnea include: improve attention, daytime vigilance, and consequently gait and balance control.

Therefore, researchers wanted to know if treating patients for obstructive sleep apnea would reduce the incidents of falling-asleep -related injuries in geriatric patients.

The Journal of the American Medical Directors Association (Onen F, Higgins S, Onen SH. J Am Med Dir Assoc2009; 10(3): 207-10) reported on one study where they treated geriatric patients (average age 82) who all shared the following characteristics: self-reported daytime sleepiness, falling-asleep-related injured falls, recurrent fall history, medical comorbid conditions, and sleep studies that confirmed they did have obstructive sleep apnea. After following the patients for 9 to 24 months the researchers found that patients who were treated for their obstructive sleep apnea had resolved their sleepiness and attention without any further incidents of falling.

The results of this study are still preliminary, but it does demonstrate that there is a causal relationship between treating patients for obstructive sleep apnea and reducing (or even eliminating) the incidents of falls in geriatric individuals.

If you know of anyone who is elderly and perhaps complaining of sleepiness during the day, followed by episodes of falling, it is my recommendation that you have them checked out by a sleep physician for the potential of sleep apnea to be present.

In our office we have helped many senior citizens improve their lifestyles by helping them with treat their obstructive sleep apnea with a comfortable oral appliance. If you would like more information please call our office for free details.

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