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How Sleep Apnea Affects Mental Health

How Sleep Apnea Affects Mental Health

Sleep Apnea is well known to have a variety of physical effects on the body, but many people don’t realize that it can also have a negative impact on mental health.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can cause sufferers to awaken frequently, snore loudly, and experience disturbances in their dreams. However, many people don't realize that sleep apnea 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 due to the effects of sleep apnea.


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

Lack of sleep, or poor sleep, is linked to depression, and the stress of having a serious medical condition like sleep apnea can also cause depression.

Additionally, sleep apnea is particularly likely to interfere with mental health because it reduces oxygen supply to the brain during sleep. The reduced oxygen supply 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.

For some sufferers, the threat of breathing problems can cause severe anxiety. This increased anxiety, in turn, can make sleep problems worse. A vicious cycle can often develop for those with sleep apnea since sleep deprivation can contribute to both depression and anxiety. 

Relationship Problems

Often people discover that they have sleep apnea thanks to their sleep partner. Those people who sleep next to partners suffering from sleep apnea notice it because it wakes them up at night.

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

Changes in Dreams

According to many mental health professionals dreaming allows the brain to process the events of the previous day, and to encode memories.

People who suffer from sleep apnea awaken frequently during sleep, and 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

People with sleep apnea tend to become increasingly exhausted during the day, and have difficulties focusing on important tasks, most notably job-related activities.

Lack of sleep can also alter mood, making people with sleep apnea jumpy or quick-tempered, and 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 but there are various effective treatments for available.

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

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