AHI Score: What Does it Mean and What is its Importance?
Know all about a good AHI score through this guide.
Many patients use CPAP therapy to reduce their sleep-disordered breathing. CPAP therapy can become extremely beneficial if you are consistent with your CPAP therapy.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which a patient’s breathing stops for ten seconds, multiple times during the night.
However, in certain situations, many patients do not feel that CPAP therapy is effective for them in the long run. Eventually, the effect of the CPAP machine fades away due to certain reasons. In such a situation, what can sleep apnea patients do?
Well, the first step is to determine your progress, and understand how much more progress you need for productive treatment. You can easily do it through an AHI score.
AHI Score: What is it?
AHI, also known as the Apnea-Hypopnea Index, is a type of score. This score is calculated based on the number of blockages, obstructions, and hypopneas (partial breathing), and apnea events (when you stop breathing completely) per hour, during the nighttime. Through this score, you can come to know about your sleep apnea severity. This score will be given to you at the end of your sleep study or polysomnography. The sleep study may be done at home or in a sleep center. You may also receive an RDI score at the end of your sleep study. The RDI or respiratory disturbance index measures the number of apnea and hypopnea events per hour as well as the number of respiratory-effort-related arousals (RERAs) per hour. The sleep study may also check for the oxygen levels in your blood and compare them to the oxygen desaturation index (ODI).
The Apnea-Hypopnea Index is an important factor that defines the course of your sleep apnea treatment. It helps in understanding if the CPAP therapy is working efficiently for you or not. It can also help in gauging the results you get after using the CPAP machine.
The AHI Index measures your breathing pattern and efficiency. It measures the number of apneas or hypopnea (irregular or shallow breathing ) per hour of sleep. For example, if the number is three, then your breathing stopped or reduced three times during the night.
Thus, a good Apnea-Hypopnea Index is necessary for all sleep apnea syndrome patients. Now, let’s see the different ranges of AHI Score and what they signify.
Ranges of AHI Score
Many CPAP machines come with an inbuilt Apnea-Hypopnea Index. It can help you understand the performance of your CPAP therapy every day.
However, it is very important to know what AHI score you require for it to be considered progress. So, let’s take a quick look at all the ranges and understand every AHI score properly.
Under 5: An AHI of 5 or under 5 is an ideal score. You do not need to worry about your sleep apnea or breathing patterns if your score is always a 5. This score signifies that your CPAP therapy is going fine.
Between 5 and 15: You can consider an AHI score between 5 and 15 to be mild sleep apnea. It is very common for sleep apnea patients to have an AHI score in this range. However, you may need to change some settings in your CPAP machine to reduce your score.
Between 15 and 30: You can consider an AHI score between 15 and 30 as moderate sleep apnea. You may have to make major settings changes in your CPAP therapy. You can also change your equipment in case you have issues. We suggest you visit a doctor as soon as possible to prevent your AHI score from increasing.
Higher than 30: An AHI score that is higher than 30 denotes severe sleep apnea. Thus, it requires medical attention quickly. If you are using your CPAP therapy dedicatedly and still have an AHI number of more than 30, you may have to change your type of treatment.
Thus, observe your AHI number, compare it with this range, and understand what problems you are facing and what to do.
Factors Affecting AHI Score
Certain factors that can affect your AHI score. So, to reduce your AHI score, it becomes important to know about all these factors and their effect.
A mask leak can severely affect your CPAP treatment.
It can reduce the airflow pressure needed to curb the symptoms of sleep apnea. Thus, this low pressure can decrease the efficiency of your CPAP therapy and cause an increase in the AHI score.
Removing the Mask During Your Sleep
Many CPAP users have a habit of removing their CPAP masks in their sleep. This can be due to various reasons like tight or ill-fitting masks, extra pressure, discomfort, etc.
Removing your CPAP mask can also decrease your breathing efficiency and increase your AHI score and may lead to daytime sleepiness. So, it becomes necessary to find a CPAP mask that fits you like a glove and also provides comfort to you while sleeping.
If the pressure settings are too high, follow-up with a doctor and ask them to reset your CPAP machine.
Alcohol and Medications
Alcohol can cause your AHI score to go up. Therefore, we advise you against drinking alcohol before bedtime.
Certain medications, narcotics, and drugs can also cause an increase in the AHI score. If you suspect that it might be the reason, consult your healthcare provider.
Other Types of Sleep Apnea
Even if your CPAP machine is treating your obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), there are chances that your brain is not stimulating the upper airway muscles involved in breathing. This is called central sleep apnea. This kind of sleep apnea can mess with your oxygen levels and you may experience oxygen desaturation which can lead to other problems like an increased risk factor for certain health issues. For more information about the different types of sleep apnea visit the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) website.
Thus, we recommend visiting a doctor if you cannot find an underlying cause for your increasing AHI score as it may have to do with an underlying health condition such as high blood pressure (hypertension) or cardiovascular disease.
How Can I Lower My AHI Score?
As discussed earlier, the AHI score can increase due to a lot of reasons. It can be due to pressure-related factors, sleeping positions, or simply a defect in your CPAP mask, machine, or accessories.
So, there are various ways you can lower your AHI score. Let’s take a look at all of them below.
Adjust Proper Pressure Settings
The first step towards lowering your AHI score is by adjusting the pressure to find one that suits your requirements.
Proper continuous air pressure can help you breathe without feeling uncomfortable. Additionally, if you adjust the pressure according to your previous AHI, it can drastically help in lowering the AHI score.
If you’re finding difficulty in breathing through your CPAP mask, consult your doctor and change the pressure settings.
Change Your Sleeping Position
Your sleeping position heavily impacts your sleep apnea. Various positions can make your sleep apnea more severe.
One of the most common ones is sleeping on your back. When you sleep on your back, gravity constricts your respiratory pathways rather than expanding them. Similarly, sleeping on your stomach can also constrict your breathing, thus reducing the efficiency in breathing and increasing the AHI score.
According to various researchers and doctors, some of the best positions to sleep in are sleeping on the side or sleeping on the right side specifically.
Replace Your CPAP Mask
As mentioned earlier, certain CPAP mask issues like leaking, discomfort, allergic material, etc. can cause an increase in your AHI score.
Now, what is the reason for that? Well, the main culprit is your CPAP mask. If your CPAP mask does not fit you properly, it can cause a pressure leak. This can reduce the efficiency of your CPAP machine.
Secondly, if your CPAP mask is old, you need to replace it. Usually, a mask can work efficiently for just six to eight months. Now, if you are buying a new mask, look out for good sealing properties, comfortable, and soft material.
Replace Other Equipment
If your mask is functioning well, you might have to consider replacing other equipment that could be the cause of your high AHI score.
You can replace equipment like headgears or mask cushions. These two pieces of equipment can easily lose their sealing properties. Thus, it becomes necessary to change them at the right time.
Thus, your AHI score forms an integral part of the CPAP therapy. Try to aim for a score below 5 as that is the most ideal score. Adapt to changes in your pressure and mask, or reduce your alcohol consumption to make your AHI score healthier.
We assure you that our tips and tricks can help you in paving the way to a healthy lifestyle with no discomfort.
Written by The Sleeplay Team