Sleep Apnea Hypopnea Index

Apnea hypopnea index is the measure of severity of apnea and hypopnea combined. Apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by breathing gaps and pauses that eventually lead to sleep disruptions and low oxygen levels in the blood. On the other hand, hypopnea is a breathing disorder characterized y shallow breathing that also results to low oxygen levels. While apnea can only happen when the patient is asleep, hypopnea also occurs even when the person is awake.

Sleep apnea index is the number of breath pauses per hour of sleep. Breath gaps lasting more than 10 seconds are considered apneas. Less than five occurrences are considered normal. 5-15 is already a mild case of sleep apnea. 15-30 is moderate and more than 30 breath stop is already classified as a severe case of sleep apnea. The numbers also apply to the apnea hypopnea index.

Hypopnea index is the measure of oxygen intake reduction. A reduced breathing of 30% for more than 10 seconds or the drop of oxygen level by at least 4% is considered a hypopnea. The apnea hypopnea index is the combination of the two. This will measure sleep disruptions, oxygen levels and its severity levels.

Hypopnea is the inability of a person to take breathe deeply or to take in as much oxygen as the body needs. It is usually caused by certain neuromuscular disorders or due to partially obstructed airways. The most common causes of hypopnea are;

  • Nasal septum deviation or deformation – This condition blocks the normal air passage thru the nasal airways, making breathing difficult.
  • Tonsillitis and adenoiditis – Enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids can create significant blockage in the throat, limiting the intake of air.
  • Smoking – Smoking damages the nerves, especially in the throat, mouth and larynx.
  • Alcohol drinking – excessive alcohol intake will act as a tranquilizer and relaxes muscles and tissues, including those in the nasal and throat airways, causing the collapse of lax muscles and tissues that can block airways. Sedatives also have the same effects.
  • Obesity – Fat tissues can form blockages in the airways.
  • Neuromuscular diseases – Weakened respiratory system will lead to difficult in breathing.

Just like in sleep apnea patients, hypopnea can result to excessive sleepiness in the day. People with hypopnea are usually loud snorers. Choking and gasping followed by silence can be observed during sleep, while raspy breathing and huffing is normal occurrence during waking hours. Other hypopnea symptoms include headaches, mood swings, depression, forgetfulness and lethargy. Hypopnea patients high risk to developing cardiovascular diseases due to stressed breathing, depression and other psychiatric problems due to diminished productivity and performance.

A sleep apnea hypopnea index test can be conducted in sleep clinics. Professional sleep disorder specialist can facilitate the testing. Sleep centers can also diagnose sleep disorders and recommend therapies and other solutions to address the problem. Possible treatments could include operations to remove the obstructions like the tonsils and adenoids or to straighten misaligned nasal septum. Abusive lifestyle should be avoided. Patients would also be advised to lose weight as excess weight doesn’t only stresses the heart but also narrows the airways.

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