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What causes changes in your AHI?

July 28, 2022

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your AHI

You’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea. You’ve got yourself a PAP machine, and you’ve been using it for a week, a month, or maybe longer. So, why are you suddenly seeing different AHI readings from what you’re used to? 

Let’s take a look at what causes changes in your AHI reading. 

What is your AHI reading? 

Last week we wrote about the specifics of the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). It is a measurement that rates the quality of your sleep.  It tells you how well you slept by tracking the times you stopped breathing entirely or partially.

Generally, your AHI will fluctuate just slightly from night to night. If you see a change of five or fewer points, the change is considered normal. Sometimes, however, you may see a significant jump, and those are moments that you should assess. 

If you know, you had a bad night because of heightened anxiety, for example, or a night where you stayed up later than normal or had a few drinks, you can expect that your body will not sleep as well, and your AHI may change for a day or two. For example, one patient traveled long distance for a family reunion. The time change and the increase in anxiety the night before she traveled, combined with the party, caused a week of poor sleep. This is unfortunate but not unexpected. 

If your AHI reading is fluctuating a lot, you should keep track of the numbers and check the following before a visit to your physician: 

Have you had any physical changes that could affect your AHI reading?

We are thinking about changes in your diet, your nighttime routine, travel, anxiety, or even hormonal changes. These could affect AHI, and you should keep track of these behaviors to be sure they are causing the fluctuation. 

Does your mask fit correctly? 

A gap in the mask will stop the force of air into your lungs throughout the night. This will cause your AHI readings to go up and must be fixed asap. If the mask is new, check out this blog: https://advancedhomecareonline.com/how-to-start-wearing-a-cpap/ for instructions on fitting the mask. If the mask is older, it may be time for a replacement. Reach out to your CPAP provider (like Advanced Homecare) to learn what should be done. 

Are you removing your mask while asleep? 

This is a common issue for sleep apnea patients. While you’re sleeping, and without realizing, you could be pushing the mask off your face. Of course, this breaks the mask’s seal and stops it from doing the intended job. You can tell if you’re pushing the mask if you wake up and it’s not in the same place as you originally had it. That seems obvious, but there can be minimal changes, so it’s not always easy to figure out. 

If the need arises, you might want to call the CPAP provider to find out how they can help. 

If you have other questions about sleep apnea or reading your PAP machine, we are here to help! Please call one of our patient representatives for help: 1-800-758-7571

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