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Understanding sleep apnea vs hypopnea is very important for your health and well-being.

Many people experience these sleep-related breathing problems, but they often don’t receive enough attention. Hypopnea vs apnea, including the obstructive and central types, can cause disrupted sleep, tiredness during the day, and a higher chance of other health problems. Surprisingly, many people have these diseases, many of which are undiagnosed. This complete guide will help people understand their differences, spot the symptoms, get the proper diagnosis, and get effective treatments, improving their health and quality of life.

What is Sleep Apnea?

A disorder called sleep apnea makes you stop breathing while you sleep. “Apnea” comes from a Greek word that means “without breath.” If you stop breathing while you sleep, you may have sleep apnea. A blockage in your mouth (obstructive sleep apnea) or a problem with how your brain controls your breathing (central apnea) can cause this.

It makes you wake up just enough to breathe again because you aren’t getting enough air. Even though that mechanism keeps you alive, it wakes you up at night. That saves you from getting a good night’s sleep and can have other effects, like putting stress on your heart, which can be fatal.

What is Hypopnea?

In sleep disorders, a family encompasses both apnea vs hypopnea, highlighting the distinction between these two conditions. When someone has hypopnea, their breathing slows down for at least 10 seconds, their air circulation drops by 30%, and their oxygen intake drops. The amount of oxygen that gets to your red blood cells decreases.

People with hypopnea often have it at night while they sleep, but it can also happen when awake. Hypopnea comes in two main types, but it can be hard to tell apart from apnea when breathing stops altogether. It is thought of as:

It is known as central sleep apnea, when your breathing is obstructed while you sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea is when you have trouble breathing because your breathing passageway is blocked or narrowed.

Types of Sleep Apnea

Understanding the various types of sleep apnea is essential to recognize the distinct mechanisms and nuances of apnea vs hypopnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

OSA is the most prevalent form, characterized by recurrent episodes of complete or partial upper airway blockage during sleep. These obstructions lead to apnea events, where breathing stops momentarily. Hypopnea can also occur when there is a partial blockage, causing shallow breathing. OSA often manifests as loud snoring, choking, or gasping for breath during sleep.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

CSA is less common and fundamentally different. It occurs due to a failure in the brain’s respiratory control center, resulting in the inability to send the proper signals to the respiratory muscles. In CSA, apnea events arise without any physical airway obstruction. CSA rarely involves hypopnea events since the issue is centrally mediated.

Mixed Sleep Apnea

Some individuals experience a combination of OSA and CSA, called mixed sleep apnea. This complex form may involve a mixture of apnea and hypopnea events, creating a more intricate clinical picture.

OSA predominantly leads to apnea vs hypopnea events due to physical airway obstruction. At the same time, CSA primarily results in apnea events due to the central nervous system’s failure to regulate breathing. Mixed sleep apnea encompasses a blend of both mechanisms, contributing to a more multifaceted presentation of sleep-disordered breathing. Identifying the specific type is critical for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

What is Hypopnea? – in Depth

People with hypopnea have trouble breathing while they sleep. Their breathing gets short and quick for a short time. People with hypopnea don’t take deep or normal-level breaths during these episodes, so they don’t get as much oxygen from the air.

During episodes of hypopnea that last 10 seconds or more, at least 90% less air flows through each breath. Unsurprisingly, the effects get worse as the attacks continue. These things can lower blood oxygen levels by 3–4% and cause sleep problems because the body wakes up to get breathing back to normal.

Hypopnea is linked to sleep apnea, a condition in which people constantly stop breathing while they sleep. Sleep apnea vs hypopnea often happen together, and if you have hypopnea, you will likely also develop sleep apnea.

Some common signs of hypopnea are:

  • Too much sleepiness during the day or even falling asleep
  • Being tired when you wake up.
  • As you sleep, you might choke or gasp.
  • Having headaches often.
  • Feelings of sadness and anger.
  • Having trouble focusing or concentrating all-day.
  • Putting on weight or having difficulty losing it.

Hypopnea vs Apnea

Both sleep apnea vs hypopnea are types of the same sleep disease. Apnea is when all of your airways are blocked, and hypopnea is when only some are blocked. A lot of the time, they happen together.

When doctors saw that some people with sleep apnea weren’t completely blocking their airways while they slept, they thought they might have found hypopnea. It wasn’t just a complete blockage every so often; it was either a partial blockage or a mix of total (apnea) and partial (hypopnea).

Frequently, you will encounter both sleep apnea vs hypopnea. You will likely get sleep apnea even if you only have hypopnea. 

Signs and Symptoms of Apnea vs Hyponea

When you lose air while you sleep, you’ll probably be too sleepy during the day, which can lead to accidents, like when you fall asleep while driving.

  • Snoring is frequently habitual in those with sleep apnea, while it is far from unique to OSAHS, given that 60% of adult men snore routinely.
  • Others may hear snoring and apnea episodes that occur during the night and have an impact not only on the apneic person but also on the group.
  • Headaches, irritability, night sweats, attention deficit, memory loss, decreased libido, and sadness are some additional symptoms that may exist.
  • The ensuing hypoxemia may also be to blame for the following conditions: increasing oxygen desaturation and lowering blood oxygen partial pressure.
  • Additional chronic cardiovascular diseases are starting to appear, such as vascular enlargement. (The sympathetic nervous system controls the higher adrenergic tone during the day.)

Diagnosis and Testing of Apnea vs Hypopnea

A polysomnographic study (PSG) is used to make the diagnosis of apnea vs hypopnea. It records the person’s movements, including movements of the thorax and abdomen, breathing rate, breathing sounds, and an electroencephalogram of the heart and brain.

PSG readings will guarantee quantifying the related desaturation and the number of occurrences per hour.

The breathing attempts will determine whether the apnea is central or obstructive based on whether they are present or absent, with absent efforts indicating a blockage.

It’s vital to remember that apnea and hypopnea episodes can also have a mixed central or obstructive nature.

Both PSG and a thorough history support the diagnosis.

Health professionals typically prefer measuring neck circumference when assessing obesity, although using the body mass index is also common.

Treatment Options for Apnea vs Hypopnea

Sleep apnea vs hypopnea involves a combination of lifestyle changes, medical interventions, and, in some cases, surgical procedures in treatment. The specific treatment approach will depend on the severity of the condition and individual patient characteristics. Here is an overview of treatment options for both sleep apnea vs hypopnea:

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy

CPAP therapy is a standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea vs hypopnea. It involves wearing a mask that delivers a continuous stream of pressurized air to keep the airway open during sleep.

Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) Therapy

Like CPAP, BiPAP adjusts the air pressure during inhalation and exhalation, which can be more comfortable for some individuals.

Oral Appliances

A doctor can provide custom-made devices that help keep the airway open during sleep, particularly for mild to moderate sleep apnea.


Severe cases or situations where other treatments have proven ineffective may require the consideration of surgical options. Procedures may involve removing excess tissue from the throat, repositioning the jaw, or addressing structural issues in the upper airway.


In cases of central sleep apnea, doctors may prescribe medications, especially when the condition causes heart failure. These medications stimulate breathing.

Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV)

ASV devices treat complex sleep apnea syndrome, a mix of central and obstructive sleep apnea.

Lifestyle Changes for Betterment

Weight Management

Losing weight, if overweight or obese, can significantly improve or even resolve sleep apnea and hypopnea, especially in cases where excess weight contributes to airway obstruction.

Sleep Position

Sleeping on your side instead of your back can help prevent airway collapse in some individuals.

Alcohol and Sedative Avoidance

Avoiding alcohol and sedative medications, particularly before bedtime, can reduce muscle relaxation in the throat, contributing to sleep-disordered breathing.

Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders in Children

Sleep-related breathing disorders, such as pediatric sleep apnea, can significantly impact children and adolescents. These disorders disrupt restful sleep, leading to symptoms like snoring, restlessness, and daytime sleepiness. The consequences include behavioral issues, poor academic performance, and developmental problems.

Importantly, untreated sleep-related breathing disorders in youngsters may result in lasting health complications, including cardiovascular congestion concerns. Early intervention and management are paramount as they can alleviate symptoms, enhance overall health, and prevent long-term repercussions.

Timely diagnosis, lifestyle adjustments, or medical treatments like adenotonsillectomy or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy can significantly improve a child’s well-being and prospects.

Prevalence of Sleep Apnea vs Hypopnea

Sleep apnea and hypopnea are widespread sleep disorders that affect a significant portion of the population. The prevalence of these conditions can vary based on factors such as age, gender, and obesity.

Sleep Apnea Prevalence

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is more common than central sleep apnea (CSA).
  • OSA affects approximately 10-17% of adults in the United States.
  • OSA is often underdiagnosed, with many cases going unrecognized.
  • The prevalence of CSA is lower, with around 0.9% of adults affected.

Hypopnea Prevalence

  • Hypopnea is closely related to sleep apnea, which often occurs with apnea events.
  • Prevalence rates for hypopnea may not be as well-documented as for sleep apnea.
  • However, it’s common for hypopnea to co-occur with sleep apnea, making the overall prevalence higher when considering both conditions together.

What are the potential Risk Factors?

Several factors increase the risk of developing sleep apnea vs hypopnea:

Obesity: Excess weight, particularly in the neck, can constrict the airway.

Age: The risk of sleep apnea increases with age, especially after 40.

Gender: Men are at a higher risk than women, but the risk for women increases, particularly during and after menopause.

Family History: A family history of sleep apnea may elevate one’s risk.

Neck Circumference: People with thicker necks are more likely to develop sleep apnea.

Smoking and Alcohol: This can relax the throat muscles, increasing the risk.

Nasal Congestion: Conditions that block the nasal passages may contribute.

Medical Conditions: Hypertension, diabetes, and heart disorders can elevate risk.

Use of Sedatives and Opioids: These substances can relax airway muscles.

Recognizing these risk factors and seeking early evaluation and treatment can mitigate the impact of sleep apnea and hypopnea, improving overall health and quality of life.


This comprehensive sleep apnea vs hypopnea guide has unraveled essential insights that can positively impact your life and overall well-being. The key takeaways are clear:

  • Firstly, understanding the distinction between apnea vs hypopnea is essential for diagnosis. Identifying symptoms such as snoring, daytime fatigue, and morning headaches is vital.
  • Next, personalization in treatment is paramount. Treatment options vary based on sleep apnea or hypopnea type and severity. To improve sleep quality, seeking professional help for a tailored treatment plan is crucial, which may encompass lifestyle adjustments, CPAP therapy, surgery, or medications.
  • Lastly, the prevalence of these disorders is significant, and risk factors such as obesity, age, and family history can elevate the chances of developing them.

In conclusion, we strongly advise you to act if you believe you or a loved one may have sleep apnea or hypopnea. Seek professional evaluation and guidance without delay. Quality sleep is a cornerstone of a healthy life, and effectively managing hypopnea vs apnea can transform your overall health and well-being. Prioritize your restful nights and seek assistance from Lungnsleep to initiate your journey toward improved sleep and a healthier life.

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