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Stages of Sleep Apnea

Posted On October 29, 2013
Stages of Sleep Apnea
October 29, 2013

Sleep apnea is the phenomenon whereby you stop breathing during sleep for 10 seconds at a time or longer.  The severity of this disease can be classified as mild, moderate or severe, depending upon the number of times per hour you experience these episodes during the course of the night.

But did you know that your obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects more than your breathing? It wreaks havoc on the stages of sleep, and relates to the severity of your sleep apnea diagnosis. In turn, the lack of quality sleep heightens symptoms of fatigue and drowsiness during daylight hours.

Stages of Sleep

For the most part, people who have sleep apnea do not have a normal sleep cycle. Hence, they do not pass through the following five different stages of sleep: drowsiness, light sleep, deep sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) and waking. The typical sleep apnea sufferer stops breathing with associated lack of oxygen, which in turn sends a signal to the brain that breathing has ceased and needs to start again. Fortunately, breathing starts again but unfortunately, the body awakens and the sleep cycle starts all over again. More often than not, people who have untreated sleep apnea never get to pass through all stages of sleep. Therefore, the next day they are fatigued and tired because sleep disturbances can occur 40 to 240 times each night!

Mild Apnea

With mild sleep apnea, effected individuals have approximately 5 to 14 reduced airflow episodes every hour while they sleep.  While watching TV or reading, you might find yourself getting drowsy or nodding off as these activities to not require a great deal of concentration. With a classification of mild, your sleep apnea thankfully only impacts your life to a minor degree.

Moderate Apnea

If you typically have 15 to 29 apnea episodes every hour during the night, you are classified as having moderate sleep apnea. Activities that need concentration and attention for performance might be adversely affected due to the inability to get the required rest you need.

Severe Apnea

If you are plagued with more than 30 instances where your breathing ceases while sleeping, you fall into the severe sleep apnea category of sufferers. With this form, your symptoms are so extreme that you are drowsy and falling asleep during activities that require your full attention like driving, talking and walking.

A sleep study is recommended in order to properly classify your particular type of sleep apnea. During this test, the number of episodes whereby you stop breathing is measured over a 2-hour period with the hope that you were able to experience all stages of sleep. The severity of your sleep apnea is determined by dividing the sleep apnea episodes total by the number of total hours of sleep. This calculation is your apnea index. Hence, the higher this index number the more severe your sleep apnea.

If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, been diagnosed with sleep apnea, or would like to find out more, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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