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How Sleep Apnea Affects Mental Health

How Sleep Apnea Affects Mental Health

You may know that Sleep Apnea has a variety of physical effects on the body, but did you realize that sleep apnea also has a negative impact on mental health? Here's a little more about the effects of sleep apnea on mental health.

Sleep apnea can cause sufferers to awaken frequently, snore loudly, and experience disturbances in their dreams. This common sleep disorder is also potentially life-threatening, since it can interfere with the brain’s oxygen supply.

That said, people with sleep apnea don’t just have its physical effects to contend with, they may also experience mental health challenges.


In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention individuals with sleep apnea were found to be more likely to experience depression than the general population.

Depression has been linked to both poor sleep and lack of sleep. The stress of having a serious medical condition like sleep apnea can cause depression in some people.

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


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

Severe anxiety can be caused by the threat of breathing problems. This anxiety, in turn, can make sleep problems even worse. Since sleep deprivation can contribute to both depression and anxiety, a vicious cycle can develop for those who suffer from sleep apnea.

Relationship Problems

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

Regardless of how supportive the partner may be, they may simply be unable to sleep with sleep apnea-related snoring happening right beside them, and end up sleeping in a separate bedroom. This in turn can decrease opportunities for intimacy, leading to greater relationship dissatisfaction and stress for both partners.

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 which means that they may not be able to enter the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep state required for dreaming.

Those who do not enter or remain in REM sleep experience a number of mental health problems, ranging from memory problems to anxiety.

Cognitive Impairment

Not surprisingly, people who suffer from sleep apnea often become increasingly exhausted during the day, and have difficulties focusing on important tasks, including job-related activities.

Lack of sleep can also alter mood, making people with sleep apnea jumpy or quick-tempered. This in turn makes it difficult for these individuals to effectively navigate the normal day-to-day challenges.

It's clear that many of the mental health problems that are associated with sleep apnea are connected to one another.

Fortunately, there are various effective treatments for sleep apnea available.

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

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