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How Sleep Apnea Affects Mental Health

How Sleep Apnea Affects Mental Health

It is widely known that Sleep Apnea has a variety of physical effects on the body. However, many people don’t realize that it can have a negative impact on mental health as well.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can cause sufferers to awaken frequently, experience disturbances in their dreams and snore loudly. It can interfere with the brain’s oxygen supply, making  Sleep Apnea potentially life-threatening as well.

That said, people aren't only dealing with the physical effects of sleep apnea, they may also experience mental health challenges.


A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that individuals with sleep apnea were more likely than the general population to experience depression.

Lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep, is linked to depression. Also, the stress of having a serious medical condition like sleep apnea can lead to depression in some people.

Sleep apnea is particularly likely to interfere with mental health because it reduces oxygen supply to the brain during sleep. This reduced oxygen supply can alter brain function and thereby increase one’s likelihood of developing depression.


This condition can be particularly problematic because sleep apnea affects people while they’re sleeping—a time the brain and body are supposed to be resting.

As you can imagine, the threat of breathing problems can cause severe anxiety, which in turn can make sleep problems even worse. Since sleep deprivation can contribute to both depression and anxiety, a vicious cycle can often develop for those with sleep apnea.

Relationship Problems

Many people only discover that they have sleep apnea thanks to their sleep partner, who notices it because it also wakes them them up at night.

Regardless of how supportive the partner may be, they may simply be unable to sleep with sleep apnea-related snoring happening right beside them. This often leads to partners sleeping in separate bedrooms. Which in turn can lead to greater relationship dissatisfaction and stress for both parties since sleeping in separate rooms can decrease opportunities for intimacy.

Changes in Dreams

Many mental health professionals believe that dreaming allows the brain to process the events of the previous day, and to encode memories.

People with sleep apnea awaken frequently during sleep, that means they may not be able to enter the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep state required for dreaming.

When a person fails to enter or remain in REM sleep they can experience a number of mental health problems, ranging from anxiety to memory problems.

Cognitive Impairment

Those who suffer from sleep apnea may become increasingly exhausted during the day, and can have difficulties focusing on important tasks, including job-related activities.

People with sleep apnea are often jumpy or quick-tempered, making it difficult for them to effectively navigate the normal day-to-day challenges.

Many of the mental health problems that are associated with sleep apnea are connected to one another, as you can see. Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments for sleep apnea available.

If you are suffering from sleep apnea (or think you are), please don’t hesitate to contact our Delta dentist to book an assessment with one of our dentists.

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