What Is Sleep Apnea

Every individual wants to lead a healthy life. In this regard, he/she considers a healthy diet and a good night’s sleep to be very important. Yes, it is true that in order to maintain a proper lifestyle, right, balanced food as well as a sound sleep is equally important and if any one of these gets hampered problems start cropping up. The moment the body feels that both these factors have been maintained properly, it keeps performing normally. For example, without proper food, the body can go into a starvation mode and further problems start emerging. Similarly without proper sleep different other ailments can be observed. But the question that may arise in your mind is that why can’t a person sleep well? Well…there can be different reasons to this among which sleep apnea is certainly one. This article will mainly deal with what is sleep apnea and the different reasons for its cropping up. Let’s start our discussion by defining sleep apnea. A disorder where breathing or airflow is either ceased or reduced while sleeping is referred to as sleep apnea. This condition is commonly found in adults but somewhat rarely observed in children. Sleep apnea can be of two types- obstructive sleep apnea & central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is observed more commonly among people where as central sleep apnea is less commonly observed. Though sleep apnea will be generally diagnosed after observing the history of the person, yet there are many tests like, "Sleep Study" or polysomnogram which may be used for confirming the diagnosis. Sleep apnea can be treated either surgically or non-surgically.

A time-period when breathing either actually stops or noticeably gets reduced is considered to be an apnea. In simple words, an apnea takes place when any individual actually ceases to breathe for 10 seconds or even more. Therefore, if the normal breath of airflow ranges in between 70%-100%, in apnea a person actually stops breathing entirely or takes even less than 25 percent of the normal breath (a time-period that stays for 10 seconds or even more). According to definition of apnea, airflow is stopped completely. In some other cases, apnea could be defined as the 4% reduction in oxygen saturation present within your blood. It directly occurs from the drop in oxygen transfer into blood during the cessation of breathing. 


In general, apnea occurs while sleeping. When apneas occur, sleep gets disturbed. Quite often, this can mean that during the apnea, a person completely wakes up. However, sometimes during the apnea an individual comes out from the ‘deep level of sleep’ and enters into the more ‘shallow level of sleep’. You can measure apneas while sleeping (usually in all levels of sleep) for duration of two hours. You can estimate how severe an apnea can be by dividing ‘number of apneas’ with ‘number of sleeping hours’. It also gives the AI (apnea index). If the AI is more, it is considered that the apnea will be more severe.


A condition where breathing is decreased and is not much severe as that of apnea is called hypopnea. Therefore, if the normal breath is between 100%-70%, in hypopnea, the normal breath will be between 69%-26%. Similar to apnea, in hypopneas also oxygen saturation within blood drops to 4% or more. This condition generally occurs while sleeping. Like the apneas, hypopneas also disturb the sleep levels. You can calculate the HI or hypopnea index by dividing ‘number of hypopneas’ with ‘number of sleeping hours’. 


The AHI or apnea-hypopnea index is the severity index that combines both hypopneas and apneas. If you combine both of them, you can get severity of the sleep apnea that includes sleep desaturations and disruptions. The AHI, similar to the HI (hypopnea index) and AI (apnea index) can be evaluated by dividing number of hypopneas and apneas by number of sleeping hours. 


Respiratory disturbance index or RDI is another index which helps in measuring sleep apnea. However, in most of the cases, a person suffering from sleep apnea cannot identify himself. Others who sleep with that person observes the person while sleeping and the effects of sleep apnea that he has on the body and then determines that he is having sleep apnea. Therefore, treatment should start as early as possible.

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