Sleep Disorders, Like OSA, Are Linked to Mental Illness
In the United States alone, it’s estimated that 50 to 70 million people have a sleep disorder that impedes their livelihood. These conditions can decrease productivity, hinder daily functioning, and affect your overall health.
Mental illness is often found among people with a sleep disorder. Although, the relationship goes both ways: People with mental illness commonly complain about sleep problems, and a sleep disorder often results in psychiatric complications.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
One of the most common sleep disorders is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and it results in frequent pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses occur because of an obstruction in the upper airway — usually, the tongue or other soft tissues in the throat relax and cause the blockage.
Risk factors for OSA include obesity, smoking, heredity, and more. Researchers attribute sleep apnea with causing and exacerbating medical issues in people with severe mental illness, resulting in significantly shorter life spans. Treating sleep apnea can alleviate some of the strain associated with mental illnesses.
OSA and Mental Illnesses
OSA often accompanies mental illness. The conditions that are most commonly affected include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Anxiety is a mental illness where a person has an intense, excessive, and persistent fear about a specific everyday situation. According to researchers, “the frequency of anxiety in OSA patients is higher than in the general population.” One reason for this is that OSA causes the person to wake up unexpectedly and short of breath, which can lead to an anxiety-inducing situation.
While OSA can affect anxiety, the impact can go the other way as well. For example, one of the symptoms of anxiety is excessive daytime sleepiness, which just so happens to be a significant symptom of sleep apnea. When combined, these two conditions provoke each other and make sleeping nearly impossible.
OSA has also been linked to depression, another mental illness that makes a person disinterested, sad, guilty, or unmotivated. Depression can significantly impair your daily life, and it can result in symptoms such as loss of appetite, depleted energy levels, lack of concentration, a change in behavior, or a decrease in self-esteem.
One of the ways that OSA is connected to depression is when patients lose sleep due to poor sleep maintenance, such as OSA, it can irritate the symptoms of depression and cause an episode. According to researchers, approximately 46% of people with OSA have or had depressive symptoms.
Finally, schizophrenia is the final mental health issue we’ll discuss. According to one study, an OSA diagnosis was found six times more often in patients with schizophrenia than other mental illnesses.
One cause is that the administration of antipsychotic medication can increase a patient’s risk of experiencing an OSA episode. The medicine can cause restlessness, weight gain, and — most importantly — movements of the jaw, lips, and tongue. All of these can initiate the symptoms of sleep apnea and make an episode more likely.
Seek Treatment Immediately
If you’ve been diagnosed with one of the mental illnesses above, we recommend that you visit Dr. Huff in Kerrville, TX. Whether you have a sleep apnea diagnosis or not, he can help you progress towards treatment.
While the most common form of sleep apnea treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), the restrictive, claustrophobic mask might exacerbate some of the symptoms and even evoke an episode.
For your convenience, we offer custom-fitted oral appliances that will make treating your sleep apnea comfortable, simple, and nearly noticeable. Please get the help you deserve — give us a call at 830-715-4484. Alternatively, you can fill out the submission form, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.