Sleep Disorders, Like OSA, Are Linked to Mental Health
In the United States alone, doctors estimate 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 mental health.
People with a sleep disorder often report symptoms of mental health issues. But the relationship goes both ways — people who are looking to boost their mental health commonly complain about sleep problems, and sleep disorders can result in psychiatric complications.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
One of the most common sleep disorders is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which causes 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, genetics, 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 Health
OSA often accompanies mental illness. The conditions that are most commonly affected include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Anxiety is a mental health disorder that causes intense, excessive, and persistent fear about everyday situations. According to researchers, “the frequency of anxiety in OSA patients is higher than in the general population.” Because OSA causes the sufferer to wake up unexpectedly and short of breath, this 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. That’s also a significant symptom of sleep apnea. When combined, these two conditions provoke each other and make sleeping nearly impossible.
Doctors have also linked OSA to depression. Depression is another mental illness that makes a person feel disinterested, guilty, or unmotivated. It can significantly impair your daily life, resulting 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 links between OSA and depression is poor sleep maintenance, such as conditions like OSA. These conditions can irritate the symptoms of depression and cause an episode as a result. According to researchers, approximately 46% of people with OSA have or had depressive symptoms.
According to one study, an OSA diagnosis was found six times more often in patients with schizophrenia than other mental illnesses.
Sometimes, antipsychotic medications can increase a patient’s risk of experiencing an OSA episode. The medicine can cause restlessness, weight gain, and jaw, lips, and tongue movement. All of these can initiate the symptoms of sleep apnea and make an episode more likely.
Seeking Sleep Apnea Treatment Can Boost Your Mental Health
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can sleep apnea cause anxiety and depression?
There’s evidence to suggest poor sleeping habits or a lack of sleep can contribute to the development of depression or depressive episodes. The exhausting symptoms of sleep apnea can mirror the effects of depression, causing other depressive symptoms to worsen.
Anxiety similarly increases in patients suffering from sleep apnea. The daytime symptoms are distressing, and not knowing the cause can heighten their effects on your mind, leading to anxious feelings.
Patients’ mental health can suffer when they’re not getting the rest they need. Find relief for your symptoms and understand their causes by undergoing a sleep study and visiting our Kerrville office for your sleep apnea solutions.
Why is sleep good for your mental health?
When you’re asleep, your body goes through several cycles that allow your muscles, brain, and eyes to rest and restore. These cycles are crucial for processing memories, maintaining the ability to focus, and restoring your emotional health.
If you’re suffering from sleep apnea, frequent waking throughout the night can interrupt these cycles, causing your body to lose out on the restorative benefits of sleep. Discover how sleep apnea treatments can improve your sleep by scheduling a consultation with Dr. Huff at our Kerrville dental office.
Can treating your sleep apnea heal or prevent mental illness?
While it’s recommended that you seek psychological treatment for mental illnesses, treating sleep apnea can help alleviate some factors that may contribute to your symptoms. Your brain requires uninterrupted sleep in order to process and recover from the day, and you may see a slight improvement in your mental health when you get this quality sleep again.
A good night’s rest promotes healthy mental function, which is linked to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Treating sleep apnea won’t heal you of your mental illnesses, but it could help you better manage them while you seek proper treatment.
How much REM sleep do you need on a nightly basis?
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is the most important stage in the sleep cycle as it stimulates the areas of your brain responsible for retaining information. Lack of REM sleep could lead to mood disorders and other serious health complications like heart disease.
Typically, you’ll go through three to five REM cycles per night, each longer than the last. Adults should ideally get around 90 minutes of REM sleep each night, assuming they sleep for the recommended seven to eight hours.
How can you get more REM sleep?
If you suspect your mental health is being impacted by lack of sleep, particularly REM sleep, there are some methods available that may help your situation.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule
- Stay hydrated throughout the day
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Avoid sleep medications
- Seek help from a sleep specialist
Sleep apnea can disrupt the sleep cycle and make it nearly impossible for your brain to get the rest it needs. Dr. Huff can provide effective treatment for sleep apnea and help you get a good night’s rest again.