Skip to content

Sleep Apnea Health Center

Font Size

Stages of Sleep Apnea - Topic Overview

Sleep apnea occurs when you regularly stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer during sleep. It can be mild, moderate, or severe, based on the number of times an hour that you stop breathing (apnea) or that airflow to your lungs is reduced (hypopnea). This is called the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI).

  • Mild apnea. Mild apnea is defined as 5 to 14 episodes of apnea or reduced airflow to the lungs every hour. Symptoms may include drowsiness or falling asleep during activities that do not require much attention, such as watching television or reading. These symptoms may cause only minor problems at work or while spending time with friends or family.
  • Moderate apnea. Moderate apnea is defined as 15 to 29 episodes of apnea or reduced airflow to the lungs every hour. Symptoms may include drowsiness or falling asleep during activities that require some attention, such as attending a concert or a meeting. These symptoms may cause moderate problems with work or social functioning.
  • Severe apnea. Severe apnea is defined as 30 or more episodes of apnea or reduced airflow to the lungs every hour. Symptoms may include drowsiness or falling asleep during activities that require active attention, such as eating, talking, driving, or walking. These symptoms may cause severe problems with work or social functioning.

Sleep apnea may be classified differently in children, because they are still developing and they normally breathe at a faster rate than adults do.

Recommended Related to Sleep Disorders

Can't Sleep? When to Get Out of Bed

You wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep.   Whether you drank one cup of coffee too many earlier, or you've got a lot on your mind, it's time to decide whether to get up or stay in bed. Getting out of bed makes sense at some point. Tossing and turning endlessly isn't going to help. If you do get up, though, you're not giving up for the night. You still need rest. So your goal should be to get back to sleep as soon as possible. Some activities help with that. Others put...

Read the Can't Sleep? When to Get Out of Bed article > >

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 25, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Stages of Sleep Apnea Topics

    Today on WebMD

    Sleep Disorders What Are They
    SLIDESHOW
    Man sleeping on plane
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Sleep Fact or Fiction Test Yourself
    QUIZ
    Woman asleep with cpap mask on.
    ARTICLE
     
    Pet scan depression
    VIDEO
    Nighttime Heartburn
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Fight Fatigue Sleepiness On The Road
    SLIDESHOW
    Sleep Apnea Appliance
    VIDEO
     
    Foods That Help Or Harm Your Sleep
    SLIDESHOW
    Sleep Apnea Clues
    FEATURE
     
    Insomnia 20 Tips For Better Sleep
    SLIDESHOW
    Breus Sleep Apnea
    VIDEO
     

    WebMD Special Sections