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Non-surgical relief from snoring and sleep apnea

What’s an AHI and why does it matter?

AHI stands for Apnea Hypopnea Index is a measure of the severity of your sleep apnea.

Apneas (e.g. no breath) are periods of 10 seconds or longer where you are trying to breathe but your airway is blocked and there is no airflow. When you are asleep, an apnea can last far longer than you could possibly try to hold your breath – sometimes over two minutes with no airflow. This can put a tremendous strain on your heart and nervous system. Your brain, to protect your body, will try to make you move your jaw (grind your teeth) to open the airway, or cause you to cough, move your body – anything – to break the apnea. Frequently, this leads  to a bad dream and you are jolted awake, gasping for air with your heart pounding.

Hypopnea (e.g. not enough breath) are periods of time when the oxygen level in your blood drops by more than 3 or 4%, depending on the way the sleep study is scored. With hypopnea, we are looking not simply at the nadir (lowest measure), because that may be momentary, but more importantly, how long the oxygen level remains under 90%. This also strains the heart and brain, as well as other processes in the body. As carbon dioxide builds up in your bloodstream, the pH of your blood changes, which can lead to erectile dysfunction and a host of other metabolic disorders.

The index is an average of both types of events totaled up and divided by the number of hours asleep.

  • Under 5 = no sleep apnea
  • 5-15 = mild sleep apnea
  • 15-30 = moderate sleep apnea
  • 30+ = severe sleep apnea

At the Pennsylvania Center for Dental Sleep Medicine, we have successfully treated patients using cpap alternatives with AHIs as high as 107. Imagine having oxygen drops or periods of not breathing occurring an average of 107 times per hour. We routinely treat severe patients with good results – we can help you as well.

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