Sleep apnea is a disruptive sleep disorder that's typically detected through a sleep evaluation performed either in a lab or with a home testing device. If you've recently received a sleep apnea diagnosis, there are likely a number of things on your to-do list. Here, we review three important questions you’ll want to ask after being diagnosed with sleep apnea.
What is my Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) score?
One of the most important things to understand about a sleep test is the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) score. In obstructive sleep apnea, an apnea episode is defined as a total breathing stoppage that lasts more than 10 seconds, despite persistent respiratory effort. A hypopnea episode is when you are still breathing, but your airflow is constricted enough to cause a decrease in your blood oxygen level, according to Medscape.
Your AHI is calculated by dividing the total number of apneic and hypopneic episodes by the total sleep time. Your AHI is an important number to remember, as it is considered a primary measure for detecting the presence and severity of sleep apnea, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
How bad is my sleep apnea?
While a comprehensive sleep study will provide detailed information about your sleep patterns, the AHI is one of the most widely-used tools to measure apnea severity. Once you know your AHI, you can use these guidelines to determine the severity of your sleep apnea, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School:
- None/Mininal: AHI less than 5
- Mild: AHI between 5 and 15
- Moderate: AHI between 15 and 30
- Severe: AHI greater than 30
What can I do about my sleep apnea?
Now that you know you have sleep apnea, it’s crucial to find out what you can do about it. "Probably the most important thing to ask your doctor after a positive sleep test is ‘What are the treatment options, based on the type and severity of my sleep apnea?’ This is because the sooner you start working on treating it, the sooner your risk for cardiovascular and other complications will revert back to baseline”, Paul Schalch Lepe, MD, FACS, and clinical assistant professor of otolaryngology and sleep medicine with UC San Diego Health, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
There’s a wide range of interventions for sleep apnea that you should become familiar with. Here are some common sleep apnea treatments, according to Cleveland Clinic:
- Lifestyle changes, such as weight loss
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy
- Mandibular advancement devices
- Hypoglossal nerve stimulators
- Upper airway surgery
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Untreated sleep disorders can negatively affect your physical and emotional health. Sleep testing can help you get the answers you need to receive the treatment you deserve. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.