If you struggle with anxiety, it’s possible you might also have sleep apnea. The connection between the two is unclear, but where you typically find one, you also find symptoms of the other. Let’s take a look at just how these two problems are associated with each other.
What’s sleep apnea got to do with it?
Sleep apnea is a medical condition whereby you stop breathing periodically through the night. There are two types of sleep apnea, but the most commonly diagnosed is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). When you experience OSA, the tissues in the back of your throat relax and block your airway. That causes your blood oxygen levels to drop, which stimulates your brain to wake you up.
You might wake up once or several times a night gasping for breath, which makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Approximately 3 – 7% of men and 2 – 5% of women suffer from this condition.
What’s more, apnea is associated with several serious health issues like heart disease and stroke. With all these sleep and health complications, it’s easy to see how you might become more anxious. But does sleep apnea actually cause anxiety? Well, it’s complicated.
What about anxiety and sleep apnea?
Studies have shown that there is a definite connection between anxiety and sleep apnea. For example, a study published in one European medical journal discovered that more than half of patients who were diagnosed with sleep disorders also had some level of depression and anxiety.
That’s understandable, given how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. But that doesn’t mean that sleep apnea actually causes anxiety. Still, there does seem to be a connection between sleep apnea and the severity and prevalence of anxiety.
A 2005 study found that those diagnosed with sleep apnea had a significantly greater prevalence of mood disorders, anxiety, PTSD, psychosis, and dementia. Whether one causes the other, however, is still like asking, “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?”
It can be difficult to determine if sleep loss is simply the result of anxiety or whether it’s the sleep disruption created by pauses in breathing that actually cause anxiety.
What about the other kind of apnea?
The other kind of apnea is central sleep apnea. It’s caused by a problem in your central nervous system wherein your brain simply doesn’t communicate with your body about breathing. There are also physical issues in your central nervous system that can cause anxiety. It’s possible, therefore, that the same physical issues causing central sleep apnea might also be causing anxiety.
We Can Help!
If you’re struggling with your sleep, we can help. Although the connection between sleep apnea and anxiety is not completely clear, they are associated, and both represent significant health risks. Call the Wheaton Dental Sleep Center today for an appointment to discuss how you can get a better night’s sleep!