Hypopnea (HE)

Last Updated: January 2, 2019

Definition - What does Hypopnea (HE) mean?

Hypopnea describes a respiratory event in which a person's breathing is abnormally shallow or slow. Hypopnea is characterized by a 30% to 50% reduction of airflow for a period of ten seconds or more while sleeping. The condition is similar to sleep apnea. Both conditions can lead to interrupted or inefficient sleep. However, unlike sleep apnea, during hypopnea the suffer does not completely stop breathing. A person who experiences chronic hypopnea may be diagnosed with hypopnea syndrome. When both hypopnea and apnea events occur during a person's sleep period, the sufferer may be diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome (OSAHS).

WorkplaceTesting explains Hypopnea (HE)

While hypopnea is sometimes difficult to detect and diagnose, symptoms include daytime drowsiness and fatigue. Additional daytime symptoms of hypopnea include forgetfulness, mood swings, irritability or nervousness, and lowered productivity. When sleeping, a person experiencing hypopnea may snore or awaken gasping for air. Episodes of hypopnea interfere with the sleep cycle, preventing the sufferer from getting enough REM sleep. Additionally, these episode reduce oxygen flow to the brain. Hypopnea may cause a person to sleep more in an attempt to gain adequate rest. Paradoxically, the same person may suffer from insomnia due to the resulting disruption of his or her sleep patterns.

Potential causes of hypopnea include physical factors such as weakened muscles, congenital defects or infections of the tonsils and adenoids. Obesity and age also play a role. Smoking and consuming alcohol or sedatives may also cause hypopnea. Treatments for hypopnea are similar to those for sleep apnea. CPAP or BPAP devices may be used to keep the person's airways open during sleep. Behavioral changes may also be advised. In some instances, surgery to correct physical obstructions in the airway may be recommended.

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