Well Rested: Your Mental Health & Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a very common sleep disorder. It is marked by snoring, pauses in breathing, gasping for air and daytime sleepiness. Other factors in OSA include morning headaches, a large neck, being overweight and high blood pressure. There are strong associations between untreated Sleep Apnea and Cardiovascular Disease. Those with untreated OSA are at greater risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, stroke and early death due cardiovascular problems.
But people experiencing sleep apnea are not just affected by its physical effects. They may also experience mental health problems. People with sleep apnea are much more likely to experience depression than people in the general population. Having poor sleep quality can affect your daytime mood and having a serious health condition itself is enough to cause some to feel depressed. Sleep apnea can interfere with mental health because of the reduced oxygen supply to the brain and frequent arousals from sleep to trigger breathing again. This can alter brain function and increase a person’s chances of developing depression.
Increased daytime anxiety and increasing anxiety before bed can affect those with sleep apnea. Not getting enough quality rest makes it very difficult to deal with routine daily task and cause anxiety. People with untreated sleep apnea also tend to feel anxious before bed as they know that they would like to have a restful sleep but will most like spend the night tossing and turning and waking frequently.
People with sleep apnea often get treated because of their spouse’s complaints about snoring. Even the most supportive spouse can get fed up by being awoken night after night with loud snoring and tossing and turning. This can cause sleeping in separate rooms, resentment and decreased opportunity for intimacy.
Dreams are an opportunity to process emotions and events of the day freeing up your brain to deal with tomorrow. People with sleep apnea wake frequently, they are constantly being disturbed out of their dream sleep, disrupting this essential cycle of dreaming. When someone does not get the proper amount of undisturbed dream sleep they experience anxiety to difficulty with memory.
Concentration and memory problems are one of the most significant repercussions of sleep apnea. Exhaustion during the day causes trouble focusing on important tasks like work, school, and driving. You may frequently feel agitated or quick-tempered further causing relationship problems and activities of daily living.
If you think you are having mental health issues such as depression or anxiety and you snore or feel you have trouble with your sleep be sure to talk to your doctor about having a sleep test.  Your mental health may depend on it.