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Hypopnea Syndrome: What Is Causing It?

Hypopnea Syndrome

  • Hypopnea syndrome is a common disorder that may affect up to 25% of adult men between 30 and 60 years of age (less than 10% of women are affected).
  • While sleep apnea causes a complete obstruction of airflow during sleep, hypopnea causes only a reduction in the airflow.
  • Hypopnea causes daytime sleepiness, headaches, and irritability.

If you feel tired almost daily no matter how many hours of sleep you get, chances are you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Sleep apnea is one of the more common causes of these lingering feelings of sleepiness because it causes you to wake up periodically during the night and disrupts your sleep cycle. However, hypopnea syndrome is also quite common but is a less severe form this problem.

Some Background

Both types of sleep disorders involve an obstruction of the main air passageway. Because the tube is compliant, it can easily become obstructed and can cause a reduction in airflow. This doesn’t happen when we’re awake but during sleep it can occur because we are in a position that makes it more likely.

When the obstruction blocks off all airflow, this causes sleep apnea. You wake up because you stop breathing for a moment. This can happen dozens or hundreds of times per night. With hypopnea syndrome, however, the obstruction is not complete but does reduce the amount of airflow. If the reduction is not too great, sleep disturbances may not be too numerous. As the reduction increases, the problem worsens and your qualify of life begins to suffer.

Causes of Hypopnea

Like sleep apnea, no one cause seems to be linked to this sleep problem. Researchers do believe anatomic issues may play a very important factor in determining who is at greatest risk. For example, having enlarged tonsils or unusual placement of the jaw bone can make it more likely for your airway to be restricted while sleeping.

Other evidence suggests that obesity, smoking, age, and existing respiratory problems are also likely causes for both hypopnea and sleep apnea.

Symptoms of these Sleep Disorders

The number of people suffering from these conditions in the United States is hard to pinpoint because many of the cases are not diagnosed. Estimates suggest that 80% of cases in the United States have not been diagnosed. Statistics suggest up to 25% of men between the age of 30 and 60 and up to 9% of women in the same age group suffer from hypopnea.

The condition does cause a number of symptoms. The most obvious is the feeling of tiredness that people can’t seem to shake throughout the day. No matter how much they sleep at night they may still wake up feeling exhausted because their bodies have not been able to complete sleep cycles thanks to the interruptions in breathing.

Hypopnea also causes people to be more irritable (thanks to the sleepiness) and to have headaches because of the reduced airflow to the brain. Periods of loud snoring which are followed by silence for several seconds is also a common symptom of the disorder which you may not notice yourself but which might be recognized by your partner.

The Need for Treatment

Although hypopnea is not as severe as sleep apnea, treatment is needed to prevent the condition from getting worse and leading to complications. High correlations have been noted between these types of sleep disorders and increased risks for strokes, heart attacks, and other problems. Receiving the proper treatment has been shown to increase mortality rates by 95% over the course of five years.

The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.

2 Responses to “Hypopnea Syndrome: What Is Causing It?”

  1. 1
    Proofreader Says:
    Hypopnea Syndrome: What Is Causing It? At end of next to last paragraph: Says inceases. Should be decreases. "Receiving the proper treatment has been shown to increase mortality rates by 95% over the course of five years."
  2. 2
    Daphne Says:
    I wonder if hypopnea syndrome is what is wrong with my husband. He was problems sleeping at night and has already been diagnosed with heart problems. Some nights he sounds like he has sleep apnea, but it's not every night and not all the time. I am going to speak with his doctor about this. Thanks for the information.