How Sleep Affects Heart Health and Seniors

heart health and sleep

Heart health is an important topic for seniors. About 630,000 Americans die from heart disease each year. It’s the leading cause of death among older adults, and the most frequent medical condition affecting them.

When it comes to improving and protecting heart health, the focus is usually on improving diet and exercise while eliminating unhealthy habits. But there’s another important factor that doesn’t get nearly enough attention: sleep.

According to new research published in Experimental Physiology, “habitual short sleep duration” can have a negative impact on heart health.

How Sleep Affects Heart Health in Seniors

The goal of the research published in Experimental Physiology was to determine whether there was a link between “habitual short sleep duration” (sleeping less than seven hours per night) and “specific inflammation and vascular‐related microRNAs.”

MicroRNAs are tiny, non-coding RNA molecules that assist in the regulation of vascular health. These molecules are also an indication of heart health.

The study looked at 24 adults: 12 with short sleep duration and 12 with normal sleep duration. Researchers found that circulating levels of certain microRNAs were much lower in those with short sleep compared to the normal sleep group.

Changes to microRNAs have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and vascular dysfunction.

Seniors and Insomnia

Getting adequate sleep is important to a person’s overall health and well-being, but many seniors struggle to fall or stay asleep. Sleep trouble can make it difficult to reach the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Studies have found that one in four Americans suffer from insomnia each year for a number of reasons. Most individuals eventually return to a normal sleeping pattern within a year, but 20% of individuals will continue to suffer with poor sleeping habits.

In seniors, insomnia is a very common condition, affecting nearly 50% of people aged 60 and older, according to the National Institute of Health.

Causes of Insomnia in Seniors

While insomnia can be a primary condition for some seniors, it’s more often a secondary disorder that stems from another health condition. The most common causes include:

  • Poor sleep habits: Many seniors do not have optimal sleeping environments. Poor behaviors and pre-sleep habits can also make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Anxiety and stress: Everyday life stresses, deaths of loved ones, or other significant life changes can cause anxiety and stress that makes it difficult to sleep.
  • Stimulants: When caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants are consumed too close to bed time, it can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Irregular sleep cycles: Traveling, jet lag or keeping an erratic schedule can disrupt the body’s internal clock.
  • Alcohol consumption: Alcohol can have a sedating effect that promotes sleep initially, but disrupts REM and makes sleep more fragmented.
  • Depression: It’s common for seniors to suffer from depression, and insomnia is a common symptom of depression. SAD is especially common in the winter months.
  • Pain: Chronic pain, such as that caused by osteoporosis or arthritis, can cause physical pain that makes it difficult to sleep.
  • Frequent urination: Waking up several times at night to use the restroom can result in poor sleep quality.
  • Sleep Apnea: Sleep Apnea can have serious consequences to your health. If you suffer from chronic snoring you should consult your physician.

How Seniors can Improve Their Sleep Quality

Improving sleep quality can improve a senior’s overall well-being, but as the new research shows, it can also help improve heart health.

If an underlying medical condition is causing sleep disruption, treating or addressing that underlying cause should be the first step. Seniors can work with their doctors to treat the problem, and hopefully, the insomnia resolves itself.

But seniors can also employ preventative and treatment measures. Proper sleep hygiene is a great place to start. Healthy sleep habits include:

  • Keeping a regular sleep/wake schedule.
  • Engaging in activities that promote relaxation before bed, such as a listening to calming music or taking a warm shower.
  • Optimizing the sleep environment. Ideally, the room should be quiet, dark, safe and comfortable.
  • Exercising early in the day – no later than 4 hours before bed.
  • Avoiding caffeine and other stimulants before bed.
  • Not eating spicy meals or heavy meals before bed.
  • Avoiding activities in bed that may induce anxiety, such as reading, working or watching television.
  • Limiting naps during the day.

Depending on the severity of the insomnia, doctors may recommend sleeping pills. There are also over-the-counter sleep aids, such as those that contain melatonin.

How Does a Pressure Mattress Work? How Do They Prevent Pressure Sores?

alternating pressure relief mattress

Alternating pressure relief mattresses are key when trying to relieve pressure sore pain or stop pressure sores from forming in the first place. Traditional mattresses are static, so if a person lacks mobility and cannot shift their weight properly or roll over in the middle of the night, pressure mattresses can help.

You can find full replacement systems that completely replace a traditional mattress, or you can choose an overlay system.

Overlay systems allow you to keep your current mattress and put a mattress topper on the existing mattress that is 2-5 inches in depth. Either options will work well for someone at high risk of bed sores or that already has bed sores and is trying to find relief.

What is a Pressure Mattress?

If you’re suffering from a pressure sore, a pressure mattress is designed to increase your comfort and support stress points. A regular mattress allows for stress points to stop pressure ulcers, or bed sores, from occurring.

Bone protrusions are key areas where this pressure will build and lead to a sore.

Sores can be small, or they can be allowed to persist and grow large in size. Pressure mattresses often use air to allow for this pressure to be relieved. The skin is allowed to heal if you have a pressure sore, and if a person is going to be bed ridden, these beds can help prevent pressure sores from occurring.

How Does an Alternating Pressure Mattress Work?

Pressure ulcers occur when a person remains immobile, unable to turn or shift in the bed. If a person is allowed to stay in the same position, these ulcers will begin to develop.

These mattresses work by relieving pressure on key points, but there are different mattress types that work slightly differently:

Reactive Surface Mattresses

A reactive mattress is one that is made of memory foam, and it works by relieving pressure by evenly distributing the person’s weight. They respond to a person’s body weight.

These mattresses are a good option to prevent bed sores, but they do not provide the comfort and needs for someone that has higher than a Grade 2 ulcer.

Static mattresses are best used when a nurse or caregiver repositions the person often. Otherwise, you may want to choose one of the other mattress options below.

Active Surface Mattresses

An active surface mattress is one that changes to help relieve pressure and allow the healing of the ulcers. These mattresses offer a dynamic surface where pressure is redistributed often and this is often done with air-flow.

Pumps attach to the mattress and are usually on the footboard of the bed.

The pump will inflate and deflate cells. When bed sores have been allowed to develop to Grade 3 and 4 sores, these mattresses allow for the best relief. The mattress and corresponding air pockets will continually move, allowing for no turning or repositioning of the person.

Air mattresses are recommended when a person needs more than manual repositioning.

Hybrid Mattresses

Hybrid mattresses combine your reactive and active mattress surfaces. These mattresses are versatile, and they offer alternating air cells with a foam mattress topper. The foam provides optimal comfort, while the alternating portion of the mattress keeps pressure relief high.

The hybrid mattress is a great option to help a person stop pressure sores from occurring in the first place. If a person does not have any mobility, they may want to use the active surface mattress instead.

Why Pressure Mattresses Help People with Pressure Sores Sleep

I have had a severe bed sore before, and when you’re in a traditional bed, the pressure is still placed on the area where the pressure sore occurred. My sore was on my tailbone, and since you cannot control your actions while sleeping, I kept laying on my back.

Nurses would turn me, and air “donuts” were placed under my tailbone to help alleviate the pressure.

I had to have surgery to correct the problem because it was allowed to progress, but pressure mattresses helped relieve pain before and after surgery. These mattresses keep pressure off of key pressure areas – in my case, the tailbone.

Since pressure is relieved, the body can begin to heal and stop the sore from progressing.

The static mattress, or your memory foam mattress, is only a good option when you have a very minor sore. Otherwise, hybrid or alternating mattresses will provide the relief that a person with a Grade 3 or Grade 4 pressure sore needs to sleep well at night.

And since the alternating pressure reduces the need to be turned, it will reduce a person’s need for a caregiver to turn them every few hours.

It’s almost impossible to sleep when a caregiver comes into the room every few hours in the middle of the night to turn you to sleep well. Pressure mattresses allow you to sleep better at night and remain comfortable during the day.

What are the Surgery Options for Snoring?

sleeping at a table

When snoring becomes a serious sleep disturbance and other treatment options aren’t working, surgery may be recommended as a last resort. Surgery is typically only recommended in cases where lifestyle changes, CPAP machines and anti-snoring devices aren’t providing relief.

There are a number of surgery options for snoring. Most procedures involve the soft palate or the nose.

If you’ve exhausted all of your other options and are still struggling with snoring, surgery may be the next step for you. Here are your options:

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, or UPPP, is the most common procedure performed on people with obstructive sleep apnea.

During the procedure, surgeons rearrange the tissue of the palate, uvula and throat walls to increase the size of the airway and decrease tissue collapse.

Tissues that may be removed include:

  • Parts of the roof of the mouth (soft palate)
  • The finger-shaped tissue that hangs from the back of the roof of the mouth (uvula)
  • Throat (excess), including adenoids and tonsils

If an enlarged tongue is the issue, the surgeon may remove a small part of the tongue.

UPPP can stop snoring, but those with sleep apnea may continue to have apnea episodes.

Potential Side Effects

The procedure has been refined over the years to minimize potential long-term side effects, like voice changes, swallowing problems and the constant feeling of a foreign body in the throat. While rare, these side effects are still possible.

Other potential side effects include:

  • Changes in how food tastes
  • Speech problems
  • Pain, swelling, bleeding or infection
  • Sleepiness
  • Apnea episodes

The sleepiness and apnea episodes are related to the medications used to relieve pain and help you sleep better.

Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA)

Maxillomandibular Advancement, or MMA, is another procedure designed to treat sleep apnea, but it may also be used to treat snoring.

During the procedure, surgeons reposition the bones of the upper and lower jaw to alleviate airway obstruction. It also changes the position of the pharyngeal airway muscles and increases pharyngeal soft tissue tension.

MMA affects the airways at all levels, which makes it effective for sleep apnea treatment. While not designed specifically for snoring, patients often report that they stop snoring after the procedure.

The effects of the procedure are much like the anti-snoring devices you find on the market today. But, of course, the effects are permanent and do not require you to wear a mouthpiece each night.

Potential Side Effects

In one study of the procedure, 50 patients were observed after the surgery. No serious complications were observed after the procedure. The most frequent complication was mental nerve sensory loss.

Of course, cosmetic changes were reported, as the surgery literally repositions the jaw. But patients reported experiencing deeper sleep after the procedure.

Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation

Another procedure for obstructive sleep apnea that can also alleviate snoring. With hypoglossal nerve stimulation, a device is implanted inside of the body that stimulates the nerve that moves the tongue forward to prevent obstruction of the airways during sleep.

The device has a few different parts. The main part of the system is a pulse generator, which is similar to a pacemaker. It delivers a signal to the nerve through a stimulation lead. The sensing lead measures breathing patterns, which allows the system to send the signal to push the tongue forward when breathing in. The third part of the system is a remote control that allows the patient to adjust the system, and turn it off and on.

Not everyone is a good candidate for this procedure, and it’s still relatively new.

Somnoplasty

A surgical treatment designed for snoring, somnoplasty uses heat energy to modify the tissues of the soft palate and the uvula. The in-office procedure requires local anesthesia.

Somnoplasty removes the stiffening soft tissues of the soft palate and the uvula using low levels of radiofrequency heat energy. The method creates a finely-controlled localized burn area underneath the lining of soft tissues of the soft palate.

The burn areas are reabsorbed by the body, which shrinks and stiffens the tissues.

The entire procedure only takes about 30 minutes to complete. About 80% of patients see a significant reduction in snoring for at least a year.

Potential Side Effects

It’s important to note that somnoplasty is not an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. If this is the cause of your snoring, one of the above-listed procedures may be a better option. Speak with your doctor.

Potential side effects of somnoplasty include:

  • Nasal regurgitation
  • Velopharyngeal insufficiency (liquids may flow into the nasal cavity) – rare
  • Need for more aggressive surgery
  • Prolonged pain
  • Impaired healing
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Electrical or thermal damage to the mucus membranes of the mouth, uvula or soft palate

It’s possible that snoring may return after a year or more, as the tissue may stretch over time.

Coblation

Coblation helps reduce the intensity and loudness of snoring by using gentle radiation frequency energy. The procedure dissolves the targeted soft palate tissue. After the procedure is complete, the soft palate stiffens and shrinks, which reduces the snoring sound.

Coblation leaves nearby tissue unharmed and uses low temperatures to minimize discomfort.

Pillar Procedure

A minimally-invasive procedure designed to reduce the intensity and loudness of snoring. The surgery is designed to stiffen the soft palate, which makes it less likely to vibrate and reduces the classic snoring sound. At the same time, it also prevents the tissue from collapsing and obstructing the airway.

During the procedure, surgeons insert woven implants into the soft palate. The entire process takes less than 20 minutes. Most people are able to resume their normal daily activities, including eating, the very same day of the procedure.

If anti-snoring devices, lifestyle changes and CPAP machines aren’t giving you the relief you need, talk to your doctor about your surgical options. Keep in mind that not all surgeries are 100% effective, so weigh the risks of undergoing a surgical procedure against the odds of seeing results to make an informed decision. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor about potentially permanent side effects, too.

VitalSleep Review – Stop Snoring Mouthpiece

snoring guy - Vitalsleep review

Snoring has always been a problem for me – or should I say it’s always been a problem for my wife. I’ve tried lots of different “anti-snoring” devices and mouthpieces. Some worked for a little while. Others were a complete waste of money.

I know I’m not alone in my snoring plight. About half of all people will snore at some point in their lives. About 40% of adult men and 24% of adult women are habitual snorers, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

When I read about VitalSleep, I was impressed. This anti-snoring device claims to be a customized solution, and the mouthpiece is designed to correct the root cause of snoring.

What is VitalSleep?

vital sleep mouthpiece diagram - vitalsleep review

VitalSleep is a custom-fitted mouthguard for sleep apnea that improves airflow into the lungs. It uses the same method of mandibular advancement that doctors and dentists use.

The VitalSleep device is FDA cleared for the treatment of snoring. It’s made in the USA with FDA-approved, USA-sourced materials.

The company claims to have helped hundreds of thousands of snorers enjoy a more peaceful night of sleep.

To better understand the benefits of this device, you have to understand how it works.

Click here for more information

How Does Vital Sleep Work? My VitalSleep Review

Let’s talk about how VitalSleep works and why we snore in the first place.

vital sleep reviewWhen we sleep, our throat muscles relax. That sounds like a good thing, right? Wrong. When these muscles relax, they partially block your airways. Every time you take a breath, air travels over those relaxed tissues and causes them to vibrate. It’s those vibrations that create the classic snoring sound.

In a nutshell, we snore because our airways are partially blocked. VitalSleep aims to fix this problem.

The specially-designed mouthpiece gently pushes and holds the jaw forward as you sleep. Moving the jaw forward keeps the airways open, so you can enjoy a quiet, peaceful sleep.

The mouthpiece itself is custom-fitted and adjustable, which allows you to find the perfect fit for your mouth.

Fitting the VitalSleep Mouthpiece

The fitting process is simple and very similar to other mouthguards. The mouthpiece is made with FDA-approved EVA plastic, which is easily moldable when heated in hot water.

  • Start by boiling a pot of hot water and allowing it to cool for a few minutes.
  • Place the VitalSleep mouthpiece in the hot water, and allow it to sit for 90 minutes.
  • Remove the mouthpiece and allow it to cool for a few seconds.
  • Place the mouthpiece in your mouth, and bite down.
  • Place the mouthpiece in cold water, and allow it to sit for 30 seconds.

The boil and bite process creates an impression of your teeth. This ensures that the mouthpiece fits comfortably and properly while you sleep. The entire process takes 3 minutes or less.

Once you’ve created an impression, you can use the accu-adjust system to further refine the fit. Inside of the mouthpiece, you’ll find screws on the right and left side. Adjusting the screws, using an Allen wrench, will advance the lower tray forward or backward to open up your airways. Don’t worry – the adjustment tool is included.

Care and Maintenance

If you’re like me, you live a busy life. You don’t have time for a complicated care and maintenance routine for an anti-snoring device.

Thankfully, VitalSleep requires minimal care. The mouthpiece comes with a free protective travel case. The mouthpiece’s large openings also allow for easy airflow and make it easy to clean with a simple toothbrush and some toothpaste.

If you’re still worried about germs and bacteria, you can buy the OAP mouthpiece cleaner. The mouthpiece cannot be cleaned in hot water, as this can alter the custom teeth impression.

Most people never bother using the mouthpiece cleaner. It’s easy to simply brush the mouthpiece before bed and in the morning as part of your regular brushing routine.

The Benefits of VitalSleep

VitalSleep isn’t the first anti-snoring mouthpiece to use mandibular advancement to prevent snoring. But there are some benefits to choosing this device over others on the market:

  • FDA-cleared for the treatment of snoring
  • Made with medical-grade, non-toxic materials
  • BPA- and latex-free
  • Made in the USA with FDA-approved, USA-sourced materials
  • Accu-Adjust system allows for a more personalized fit
  • Easy to create teeth impressions
  • 2 sizes to choose from: regular for men and small for women (10% smaller)
  • Design allows you to sleep in any position
  • 60-day money-back guarantee
  • 1-year warranty
  • Same-day shipping if you order by 3pm EST

VitalSleep is available at an affordable price, but I’ve learned that the company accepts most health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA) cards.

Who is the VitalSleep Mouthpiece For?

VitalSleep may benefit people with:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Mild to moderate snoring

If you have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about VitalSleep. Some doctors will recommend mandibular advancement devices – just like VitalSleep – to help treat obstructive sleep apnea. But just so we’re clear, this mouthpiece is not a replacement for a C-PAP machine. If you need a C-PAP machine for your sleep apnea, please don’t stop using it. Talk to your doctor if you are looking for alternative treatments.

If you have a habit of grinding your teeth, VitalSleep may also help stop this behavior, although it should not be used for this purpose.

Easy to fit and comfortable to wear, VitalSleep has helped thousands of people improve their sleep. I like that this mouthpiece uses a proven method to stop snoring, and it addresses the root cause of the problem. And the customized fit means that you don’t have to constantly move or readjust the position of the mouthpiece in the middle of the night (making it even harder to get a good night’s sleep).

Sleep is just as important as breathing. Quality sleep improves your memory, your focus, your metabolism, your creativity and even your physical coordination. If you’re constantly tossing and turning because of your snoring or if you’re keeping your partner up all night, you may be doing more harm to your health (and your loved one’s health) than you realize.

VitalSleep offers a simple way to fix this problem. If it doesn’t work for you, you can return it within 60 days to get your money back. The one-year warranty means that you get free replacements if something goes wrong with your mouthpiece.  

Click here for more information

Bed sores: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

hospital bed

Pressure sores, or bed sores, are frequently experienced in medical care facilities. Medical providers on a daily basis work to relieve the risks of bedsores, but proper bedsore prevention can help too. Bed sores impact anyone that stays in the same position for long periods of time.

For example, a person who suffers from paralysis cannot switch positions often enough are at high risk of ending up with a bed sore.

If this person were to remain in the same position for days or weeks, they would develop what’s called a “pressure sore.” Essentially, pressure sores occur when pressure is unrelieved on one part of the body for a long period of time.

This causes the blood to pool in one area, the skin starts to die and causes sores to develop.

Causes of Bed Sores

Bed sores are caused due to a lack of movement. If a person cannot move even minimally, there’s a good chance that they’ll develop bed sores. The only way that a bed sore will not form is if proper prevention methods are taken (more on that below).

Nursing and medical facilities must take preventative actions for anyone that cannot properly move.

The right precautions will ensure that a bed sore doesn’t present. Sores will often present on the boniest areas of the body, including:

  • Ankles
  • Heels
  • Elbows
  • Tailbone
  • Knees
  • Coccyx

Even with the right knowledge, bed sores are still very common in intensive care units in the United States. Statistics suggest that 16.6% – 20.7% of people in intensive care will develop a bed sore in the United States.

Fatal complications are rare, but they can and do occur if treatment comes too late.

It’s important that a medical staff identify bed sores in the early stages. A lot of patients will be able to receive fast treatment and reduce their risks of further complications if the bed sore is properly diagnosed during the initial stages of development.

Otherwise, the bed sore can progress to the point where surgery is the only treatment.

Pressure Sore Symptoms

Sores develop over time, and pressure sores need to have a doctor diagnose them properly. However, if you know the stages and what symptoms will occur, it’s easier to alert medical professionals that a problem exists.

There are four main stages of a bed sore.

Proper treatment and identification can properly identify a bed sore in the initial stages of the problem.

  • Stage 1. The initial stage of a bed sore will include skin that may be itchy, red and feel warm when touched. Of course, the area impacted would be an area of the skin where pressure has been consistent and frequent.
  • Stage 2. During the second stage, the skin will start to look discolored around the area where the sore is present. A blister or open sore will be present in the second stage.
  • Stage 3. An advanced stage for a bed sore, the third stage includes tissue damage that begins under the skin. Tissue damage will lead to a crater-like appearance.
  • Stage 4. The final stage of a bed sore is where severe damage has occurred to the tissue and skin. Infection may set in at this point. Bones, muscles and tendons may be visible at this time.

When a sore is infected, the healing process will take longer. In some cases, the infection may spread to other areas of the body, causing further complications.

How to Treat Bed Sores

Bedsore prevention and treatment are key to stopping pressure sore progression. You’ll need to incorporate a variety of treatment options and preventative methods to stop bedsore formation and progression.

A few of the most important forms of treatment are:

  1. Alternating pressure mattresses. Pressure mattresses will alternate the pressure of the bed. What this does is alleviate the pressure on one particular area of the skin. Advanced beds are available for when a person hits stage 3 or 4 in their bedsore progression. But in most cases, an alternating pressure mattress will relieve the pressure, allowing for the natural healing process to occur. Alternating pressure mattresses can also be used initially to reduce the risk of a bedsore developing.
  2. Moving the patient. Medical staff can move the person every 2 hours in a bed to relieve pressure. A person that is in a wheelchair will need to be moved every 15 minutes or so. There are other cut outs in wheelchairs that can remove the pressure area completely, such as a cut out near the person’s tailbone.
  3. Daily inspections. A daily inspection of the patient can help identify the sore and allows a person to treat the sore promptly. Medical professionals will also want to keep the patient’s skin dry and healthy.

Exercises that help improve circulation are also a great choice. The goal is to improve the person’s circulation

Patients that are able to identify their own bed sores or discomfort will want to bring the issue to the attention of medical workers. The goal is to be able to reduce the damage that has occurred and stop the stages of the bed sore from progressing further.

Treatment, when a bed sore is already present, will vary, depending on the severity of the sore.

The basic treatment options include:

  • Removing the pressure from the sore to reduce further damage. Foam pads, alternating pressure beds and pillow placement can be used to reduce pressure.
  • Wounds should be cleaned properly. Minor wounds may only need soap and water. Advanced sores will need to be cleaned with solution and a dressing put on the area.
  • Dead skin must be removed so that the healing process can take place.
  • Dressings can be applied to enhance the healing process and help prevent infection.
  • Oral or topical antibiotics will need to be incorporated to help prevent and treat infection.

If caught early enough, it may be possible to treat the pressure sore in stage 1, where relieving the pressure may be enough to allow healing. The second stage may also allow for healing to occur, so at-home treatment is possible.

When the pressure sore is in the latter two stages, this will require intervention from a doctor.

Surgery may be required in these stages, and this will include removing skin from another area of the body to fill in the area where the sore is present. The surgery will also include cleaning out the area, preventing further infection and reducing potential fluid loss.

Muscle, skin or tissue may be used from other areas of the person’s body to cover the wound. Affected bone will also be cushioned thanks to the surgical procedure.

Prevention methods are best to incorporate rather than wait for a bed sore to progress to the fourth stage where surgery is required.