What is Sleep Apnea?
While Medicare can’t guarantee or cover a good night’s sleep, beneficiaries should know how important adequate rest is for their physical and mental health. But they may not always know that they are not getting the rest they need. Sometimes sleep orders disrupt what you think is a healthy slumber, and can lead eventually lead to the development of chronic health issues that affect seniors.
Sleep apnea, for instance, is a commonly undiagnosed sleep disorder in people of all ages. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is when you experience 10- to 60-second involuntary pauses in breathing in the night. Loud snoring and gasping can also occur.
Sleep apnea can cause fatigue, memory loss, and even depression or dementia-like symptoms that can be alleviated with the use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine or OAP (oral appliance therapy). CPAP therapy involves wearing a device with a mask at night that administers pressurized air to prevent the airway from collapsing. With OAP, a dentist fits an oral device like a mouth guard worn in the mouth at night. The appliance holds the lower jaw forward to keep the airway open and prevent blockage by the tongue and upper airway muscles. If you think you might have sleep apnea, see your doctor and have a sleep test done.
What Does Medicare Cover?
Medicare covers a three-month trail of CPAP treatment for sleep apnea. Those with Medicare Part B are also covered for sleep studies if they have symptoms of sleep apnea and their doctor orders the test. Medicare offers reimbursements for oral appliances for those 65 and older under the durable medical equipment (DME) benefit.
Steps to Better Sleep
Some other ways to alleviate sleep apnea symptoms include losing weight, quitting smoking, sleeping on your side, or ceasing to drink alcohol or use sleep medicines.
Experts recommend these general steps to better sleep:
- go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- get eight to nine hours of sleep
- don’t take naps longer than 20 minutes during the day
- use your bedroom just for sleeping
- avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and large meals
- exercise a little bit every day
Here’s another great tip for better sleep: a study done at the University of Illinois showed the more time you spend outdoors the better you will sleep at night. So make an effort to go to a park, or take a walk in the great outdoors.
Having trouble falling asleep? Try going to another room and doing a calming activity like reading or listening to music before heading back to bed. Another thing to try is relaxing parts of your body one at a time, starting with your toes and going up (or the other way around). Deep breathing can help, too.
Some of our Facebook followers have even used listening to soothing sounds as they sleep such as thunderstorms and jazz. A Northwestern University study found that listening to gentle sound stimulation may improve sleep and recalling words in older adults.
Other sleep disorders that could cause sleep problems include insomnia, restless leg syndrome, depression, and narcolepsy. If you think you might have a sleep disorder or sleep apnea, see your doctor. You could be on your way to a better night’s sleep.
For more information on sleep apnea, visit the American Sleep Apnea Association.
Medicare doesn’t cover everything. Luckily, those on Medicare can now start saving on out of pocket expenses like prescription drugs, dental, vision, hearing, and more. Over 1 million people have already received their free Medicare Plus Card.