When you believe you have sleep apnea, you need to ask, “What is considered moderate to severe sleep apnea?” Not only will this give you the push you need to see a sleep specialist, but it can also help you to prepare for the next steps. As it’s one of the most concerning illnesses that occur when you are asleep, it is essential to be diagnosed.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what it means to have mild, moderate, or severe sleep apnea as well as the exact values that can help you to understand the disorder.
What Is Considered Moderate to Severe Sleep Apnea: The Stages of Sleep Apnea
As discussed, there are three different stages of sleep apnea to consider: mild, moderate, and severe. Depending on what you are diagnosed with, it can affect the treatment you are given. It will also affect any instructions from a sleep specialist and your doctor.
Using the AHI (Apnea-Hypopnea Index), patients are placed under one of the three following categories:
Mild Apnea (5 to 15 AHI)
Some of the most noticeable symptoms of someone with mild apnea include the inability to stay awake during normal activities. These activities may consist of watching television or reading.
On average, people with this level of sleep apnea don’t experience a variety of cognitive impairments or issues during the day, unlike those with more severe versions of the disorder.
When you’re hanging out with friends and family, you’ll likely experience little to no symptoms of drowsiness or exhaustion. There are likely millions of individuals with undiagnosed mild apnea, as it’s one of the least inhibiting versions of the disorder. However, it is still essential to get diagnosed for your long-term health.
Patients who have mild apnea will experience between five and 14 episodes of reduced airflow every hour. These effects could include waking up in the middle of the night feeling like you have to use the bathroom, snoring loudly, or even gasping for air.
Moderate Apnea (15 to 29 AHI)
As the second most intense version of sleep apnea, moderate apnea is a little more severe than mild, but certainly not as strong as severe apnea. With similar symptoms as the less severe version of the disorder, you’re most likely to experience some impairment during the day due to exhaustion.
Individuals with this level of apnea are more likely to fall asleep during irregular activities where you’d usually be awake.
A couple of examples of times when you’re more likely to fall asleep is during a concert or while you are at a meeting. As these locations are places where you would not want to sleep, this is what causes people to get diagnosed with sleep apnea. On average, at this stage, you’re going to notice a few issues with your social skills and work.
To scientifically categorize people who are suffering from moderate apnea, they are likely to experience 15 to 29 episodes per hour. This means the flow of oxygen to your heart and brain is disrupted up to 29 times each hour when you are asleep.
Severe apnea (30+ AHI)
By far the worst out of the three, severe apnea requires immediate attention from sleep specialists and your family doctor. The worse this stage gets, the more at-risk you are from suffering accidents in your day-to-day life. It also puts those around you at risk, as you are not at the right operating capacity for everyday tasks.
On average, you will experience 30 or more episodes of apnea every hour when you are asleep. The less oxygen your body receives, the more damaging it is to your internal organs, also known as hypoxia. Oxygen deprivation is what leads people with severe apnea to have heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and to even be obese.
When you’re suffering from severe apnea, you’re going to find it challenging to stay awake while doing activities where you need to be alert. For example, while driving, walking, talking, or even eating. The most severe cases will find it relatively impossible to achieve social functioning without impairment.
The Signs of Sleep Apnea
Knowing the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea can help you to prepare for your diagnosis and realize when it’s time to seek professional assistance. You’ll find that most of the symptoms are hard to miss, which is what makes it so easy to know when to see a doctor. It’s important to note that the below symptoms don’t need to happen in excess for you to be diagnosed.
1. Loud Snoring
Snoring has always been looked at as a type of comedic humor in movies and television shows when in reality, it could be a symptom of something far more sinister. Loud snoring that not only disrupts you but also your partner could be a sign of sleep apnea. This is because it is the sound of air escaping from an obstructed trachea.
2. Choking or Gasping
If you’re someone who wakes up frequently during the night choking or gasping, you likely have sleep apnea. As it is a disorder where your body is unable to get enough oxygen, your brain alerts your body to wake up to acquire the oxygen it needs. This results in choking or gasping as if you aren’t getting enough oxygen.
3. Mood Changes
We all know what it’s like to get a miserable night’s rest and wake up the next morning in a terrible mood. Imagine dealing with moodiness and mood swings daily, as many with sleep apnea do. If you have noticed that you are more irritable than usual over basic situations, it could be because your sleep apnea is disrupting your sleep.
4. Sore and Dry Throat
One of the best ways for your body to try to get more oxygen is to force your mouth open while you are asleep. This way, instead of inhaling through your nose, you’re inhaling directly through your trachea. Unfortunately, this causes your throat to get incredibly dry, as you’re unable to hydrate while you’re asleep.
The drier your throat is at night, the sorer it will feel in the morning. Some people suggest their CPAP machines cause sore and dry throats. This is easily remedied by having a sleep specialist adjust the settings.
5. Lack of Energy
Above all else, the most noticeable symptom of sleep apnea is lack of energy. Even with nine hours of disrupted sleep, your body never reaches REM, which is when you get the majority of your rest. You’ll awaken feeling groggy and as if you barely slept the night before.
A lack of energy is also one of the most dangerous symptoms of sleep apnea, as it reduces your attentiveness and your ability to function normally. Many with sleep apnea are at a higher risk of falling asleep while driving or operating machinery poorly.
Treating Sleep Apnea
There are traditional methods of treating sleep apnea, such as uncomfortable CPAP machines and surgery. At times, the best treatments are those you can do at home. With specialized therapies such as the Stop Snoring and Sleep Apnea Program, you can have full control over your treatment process.
Designed for the vast majority of sleep apnea and snoring sufferers, this program is highly versatile and tailored to meet your specific needs. Each participant will receive four custom exercises to perform daily for only seven minutes in total. By strengthening key areas, you can reduce your likelihood of snoring and potentially stop your sleep apnea.
Compared to traditional therapies, it’s far more comfortable, requires no recovery time, and is something your whole family can do. There’s no need for over-the-counter treatments, prescription medication, and invasive procedures.
Overall, to figure out what is considered moderate to severe sleep apnea, you need to know how many awakenings on the AHI are required. From mild to severe, knowing where you fall on the spectrum can help you to get the correct diagnosis from a sleep specialist for the best possible treatment.
It’s also recommended that you consider the Stop Snoring and Sleep Apnea Program as a fantastic resource to help you to remedy your concerns. Built to accommodate patients of every age and with various types of snoring and sleep apnea, it’s an easy-to-follow process to do at-home.