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What Is Considered Mild Sleep Apnea?

a man with sleep apnea

The realm of sleep apnea spans a variety of types and levels of severity. The most common form is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), affecting 26% of Americans between the ages of 30 and 70.

While abundant information and treatment options exist for moderate to severe OSA, many wonder, “What is considered mild sleep apnea?” and “Is medical intervention necessary, or can it be managed differently?”

We’ll explore these questions in depth, so keep reading to understand the nuances of mild sleep apnea.

What Is Mild Sleep Apnea?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, mild obstructive sleep apnea is the least advanced form of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of breathing cessation during sleep. 

While OSA is considered potentially dangerous, leading to a range of adverse health effects, mild OSA doesn’t cause sleep to be as fragmented as in moderate to severe cases. 

This makes it particularly challenging to recognize the symptoms and for healthcare providers to diagnose the condition effectively.

How Is Mild Sleep Apnea Different From Severe Sleep Apnea?

Understanding the difference between mild and severe sleep apnea is crucial for diagnosis and treatment. The severity of sleep apnea is usually gauged using the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), a numerical representation of the frequency of “hypopneas” (shallow breathing periods) and “apneas” (total cessation of breathing) an individual experiences per hour of sleep.

The AHI Scale Defined

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) defines the range of sleep apnea severity as follows:

  • Mild Sleep Apnea: Scores 5 to 15 on the AHI scale, indicating 5 to 15 instances of hypopneas or apneas per hour of sleep. The common symptoms usually include involuntary sleepiness during low-attention activities like watching TV or reading.
  • Moderate Sleep Apnea: Ranges from 15 to 30 on the AHI scale, which means 15 to 30 instances of interrupted breathing in an hour. Symptoms generally manifest as involuntary sleepiness during tasks requiring moderate attention, such as attending meetings or giving presentations.
  • Severe Sleep Apnea: A score above 30 on the AHI scale indicates severe sleep apnea. This severity level means you experience more than 30 shallow or stopped breathing instances every hour you try to sleep. This can cause involuntary sleepiness during high-attention activities like talking or driving, posing a significant safety risk.

Understanding the distinction between mild and severe sleep apnea is critical for appropriate diagnosis and treatment planning. If you suspect you have sleep apnea of any severity, it’s crucial to seek professional assessment and diagnosis.

Mild Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

When it comes to mild sleep apnea, diagnosis can be tricky. However, it’s one of those conditions where simple lifestyle changes and managing environmental factors might suffice, although a professional diagnosis is essential for a comprehensive treatment plan.

Don’t leave your sleep quality to chance. Schedule a sleep analysis with Sleep & CPAP Center today for a professional assessment and diagnosis of sleep apnea or other sleep-related issues. 

Our sleep diagnostic centers are open seven days a week, providing in-home patient sleep studies, CPAP and Bi-PAP services, and supplies at your convenience. We are committed to helping you sleep better so you can live better.