It may surprise you that that sleep apnea and anxiety are related. But can anxiety cause sleep apnea? A holistic doctor explains the relation.
Sleep apnea is a serious illness that, if left untreated, can have lasting detrimental repercussions on your health. You may not be aware that anxiety can cause sleep apnea.
It turns out that both stress and worry are directly linked to sleep apnea, but can anxiety cause sleep apnea? Read on to find out.
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What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder in which a person stops breathing for a few seconds or minutes at a time while sleeping. It’s usually not a big deal, but it can sometimes cause waking up with a stiff neck and other related symptoms. People with sleep apnea often wake up snoring and can feel sleep deprived.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
- Excessive Daytime Sleepiness – Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is a condition of persistent sleepiness and is often a symptom of a sleep disorder. It can make it hard to stay awake during the day, function at work or school, or be fully engaged in social activities.
- Poor concentration – Sleep apnea causes people to stop breathing briefly during sleep, leading to poor sleep quality and quantity and therefore poor daytime attention.
- Sleep disturbances / sleep disruption form snoring or choking
- Morning headaches
- Chest pain
- Mental health issues such as anxiety and depressive symptoms
- Mood disorders and psychiatric disorders
Complications that can arise from untreated sleep apnea
When you regularly suffer from a lack of sleep, it can cause your body long term problems. Here are six serious problems that can develop from chronic sleep deprivation.
Cardiovascular disease – Untreated sleep apnea causes cardiovascular problems, including heart disease. Hypoxia at night leads your heart rate to increase, in order to pump more oxygen-rich blood to the brain.
Stroke – When you experience a sleep apnea incident, your blood pressure rises and stays up for the duration of the event. This can lead to clots in your veins, which are more likely to break off and travel to your brain, causing a stroke.
Memory loss and cognitive disorders – Sleep apnea can cause cognitive disorders, including memory loss. When someone with untreated sleep apnea experiences an apnea-related event, their blood oxygen levels drop, which can lead to a reduction in brain activity and, in turn, memory loss.
Alzheimer’s disease – Research shows that brain damage from sleep apnea starts in the same place as Alzheimer’s disease and spreads in the same way.
Respiratory problems – Untreated sleep apnea can cause asthma and COPD. Because sleep apnea events can cause inflammation in the throat, it can lead to breathing problems like asthma and COPD.
High blood pressure – Due to the stress hormones released when you stop breathing, obstructive sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure.
Why is sleep so important?
Lack of sleep affects learning, concentration, and reaction. You may accomplish activities slowly, react slowly, and make more mistakes. Getting a good night’s sleep can have many health benefits including the following.
Sleep can help counter depression and anxiety
Sleep is often overlooked as a viable form of treatment for anxiety and depression. Increasing the amount of sleep can reduce symptoms of depression, especially when paired with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Sleep helps to maintain your weight
Getting enough sleep can help you maintain a healthy weight by preventing overeating. Sleep has been found to help regulate appetite, which can make it easier to eat less.
Sleep combats cognitive decline
Poor sleep has been linked to a higher risk of cognitive decline. Getting enough sleep each night can help boost your brain health by supporting your neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin, which keep you feeling happy and calm.
Sleep keeps your immune system strong
Sleep is also vital to your immune system, which is your first line of defense against illness and infection. Getting enough sleep can help keep your immune system strong and your risk of infection low, which can keep you safe.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe / debilitating. It may be accompanied by symptoms such as:
- Constant feelings of dread and fear – When someone with anxiety feels anxious, they often experience feelings of dread or fear. These are common symptoms of anxiety, especially in social anxiety disorders.
- Shortness of breath – When people are anxious, they often experience shortness of breath, which can make them feel like they’re suffocating. If you’re experiencing this symptom of anxiety, try some relaxation exercises, like breathing slowly.
- Irritability – People with anxiety often display irritability, which can disrupt relationships at home and at work.
- Muscle tension and aches – When someone experiences anxiety, their muscles often tense up. This can lead to muscle aches and pains, as well as headaches.
- Problems with sleep – When people suffer from anxiety, they often have trouble falling asleep or may wake up throughout the night.
Treatment options for sleep apnea
A sleep study can be done through a sleep medicine center to determine course of treatment and diagnose sleep apnea. Some possible treatments include:
CPAP Machine – A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is a medical device that is used to treat sleep apnea. It is a machine that provides a controlled stream of air to the user through a mask, which helps to keep the airways open and prevent snoring.
Tonsillectomy – If tonsils are causing severe OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) syndrome, a common treatment option is a tonsillectomy. Tonsillectomy is typically recommended for people who have sleep apnea and who have not responded well to other treatment options, such as lifestyle changes, weight loss, and use of a CPAP machine.
Can anxiety cause sleep apnea?
Studies show a connection between anxiety and sleep apnea. People with anxiety disorders are more likely to have insufficient sleep, which can lead to snoring and other sleep disorders. This, in turn, can cause oxygen levels in the bloodstream to drop, which can trigger sufferers to wake up and breathe again. This cycle can occur hundreds of times during the night, making it difficult for sufferers to get a good night’s rest.
It is not clear enough to state that anxiety causes sleep apnea, but there is a clear connection between sleep apnea and anxiety. Sleep apnea can lead to anxiety and panic disorder. If you suffer from either sleep apnea or anxiety it’s important to get help.
Though it seems anxiety can also be a risk factor for sleep apnea, it appears more likely that sleep apnea is a cause for anxiety. Central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea are both serious and if you have any kind of apnea episode or suspect you have sleep apnea, it’s best to see a sleep specialist as soon as possible.
Treating sleep apnea may help with treating anxiety as well.
Maintaining good physical health and avoiding sleep debt can help you stay healthy.
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