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Can Sleep Apnea Cause Anxiety

How Sleep Apnea Can Cause Anxiety And Panic Attacks

Can stress or anxiety cause sleep apnea?

As we approach the most stressful time of the year, the one thing that we all forget to do is to remember to breathe. Literally. Tension and stress causes a nervous system reaction that causes you to take short, shallow breaths, leading to carbon dioxide retention. Interestingly, a recent study showed that increased levels of carbon dioxide has been shown to affect areas in the brain that triggers fear and panic attacks.

This makes sense since if youre chronically oxygen deprived from not breathing at night due to sleep apnea, youre going to build up carbon dioxide, which can increase the acidity levels in the amygdala, which is the area of the brain that processes fear and behavior.

This biochemical reaction, along with generalized nervous system over-responsiveness that comes along with inefficient sleep, is a good reason for you to feel over-stressed, over-anxious, and on edge. Ive also described a situation where your tongue suddenly collapses and obstructs your breathing, and youll wake up violently, in a state of panic, in a cold sweat, and with your heart racing. This happens much more commonly than you think.

This study makes me wonder what all the carbonated beverages are doing to us as a society.

Whats youre take on this? Do you find yourself taking short, shallow breaths or even hold your breath when youre stressed? Please enter your comments in the box below.

What Is Sleep Apnea

For those who arent sure, sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where pauses in breathing or shallow breath occur during sleep or occur far more often than normal. There are a few different types of sleep apnea, from obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common, to central sleep apnea and some other variations.

While the causes of the breathing irregularities can be different and lead to slightly different types of conditions, the results can be terrible, and people have died from the condition or suffered terrible attacks of anxiety and other health issues such as brain damage.

The worry about what sleep apnea can lead to is one of the core reasons that sleep apnea can cause such anxiety and have huge impacts on mental health, as well as the innate results of the loss of sleep quality and the adverse effects this could have on mental and physical health.

Another cause of anxiety for those who suffer from sleep apnea can be the way that the condition is treated.

While many treatments prescribe lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol, or sleeping in a different position, some treatments are much more invasive and uncomfortable, ranging from the consistent use of a CPAP machine whenever one sleeps to using other breathing devices to even undergoing surgery.

Other Treatment Options For Sleep Panic Attacks

If sleep panic attacks are happening quite often, medications can help as well as cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy or mindfulness-based therapies. The one thing that you dont want to do is hit the bottle for relief.

Alcohol can accelerate heart rate and get our bodies kind of aroused. If youre drinking alcohol late in the evening, that could be a particularly predisposing sort of thing for panic. With people who are anxious and panicky, if they overuse alcohol, they often feel very anxious when they wake up. So alcohol could be a contributing factor for panic attacks with some individuals.

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The Relationship Between Sleep Apnea And Stress Panic Attacks And Chest Pains

Recent data confirms that there is an association between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and anxiety. In its more serious forms, those with anxiety disorders will have elevated blood pressure, chest pains, and even panic attacks.

This is where the connection to sleep apnea comes in. Those key symptoms of sleep apneainsomnia, fatigue, sleeplessness, and irritabilitymay also trigger elevated blood pressure, chest pains, and panic attacks.

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Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million adults in the United States. Are you one of them? You may be in therapy or even taking prescription medication to manage your mental illness, but for many people, a lack of proper sleep can be the root cause of an anxiety disorder. Your sleep apnea dentists in Nashville at Devine Dentistry want to take a look at how sleep lossand obstructive sleep apnea in particularcan lead to anxiety and depression.

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How Common Are Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness, affecting the lives of around 20% of American adults and 25% of teenagers each year.

Adults Affected in U.S. Percentage of U.S. Adult Population
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
7.7 million 3.5%

Not all people with anxiety disorders have the same degree of symptoms or impact from anxiety on their everyday life. In one large survey, around 43% of adults described having mild impairment of their life from anxiety. Around 33% said it was moderate, and nearly 23% said it was severe.

How Can Medication Treat Sleep Anxiety

Your healthcare provider may recommend medication to treat anxiety or other mental health disorders. Medication can also help improve the symptoms of sleep-related disorders such as restless legs syndrome or insomnia.

But some medications might actually increase your anxiety or make sleeping harder when you first start taking them. If you experience these side effects, talk to your healthcare provider. Many over-the-counter sleep aids can also be habit-forming. Dont start any medication for anxiety or sleep without your healthcare providers supervision.

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Does Anxiety Go Away

For those people that are diagnosed with a legitimate anxiety disorder, the condition is unlikely to go away. Some people may be able to better control their anxiety disorder with the help and guidance of a therapist or psychologist, and medications may help further control the condition. There may also be specific coping mechanisms to help manage anxiety disorders, however, a permanent cure for anxiety does not currently exist.

For those that do not suffer from an anxiety disorder, but only have occasional or intermittent anxiety from time-to-time, this is normal and healthy behavior for many people. Temporary anxiety is likely to diminish over time, and if it is related to a specific place or person, removing yourself from those situations may help the anxiety go away after some time.

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Tips For Cpap Users With Sleep Apnea And Anxiety

Can sleep-tracking apps cause anxiety and insomnia?

Note: Some CPAP users with anxiety turn their ramp feature off, because they feel they can’t get enough oxygen in and then start to panic.

For more info about claustrophobia and CPAP masks, see CPAP claustrophobia.

If you find impossible to use the CPAP machine, then I recommend other treatments for sleep apnea that could help you with anxiety, such as:

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How Sleep Apnea Is Diagnosed And Treated

Treatment will involve giving you a CPAP machine or a BiPAP machine, as well as medications to prevent excessive snoring and other sleep problems. Patients with sleep apnea often experience: a sore throat scoliosis and lower back pain sleep paralysis unexplained weight gain headaches nausea fatigue thinspiration a fear of flying, driving, or other activities that require a great deal of concentration or manual effort benign Other possible causes of sleep apnea include: night sweats dry mouth waking up several times a night to go to the bathroom loss of muscle mass fluctuating hormones, such as cortisol As you can see, sleep apnea is not always caused by a health condition.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD occurs when small air sacs in the lungs are damaged. These sacs, called alveoli, become floppy, making it difficult to push air out of the lungs.

Symptoms can occur while a person is sleeping. They may wake up gasping or feel as if they are suffocating.

Other symptoms of COPD include:

  • wheezing

When the heart is not pumping blood as efficiently as it should, this is called heart failure.

Abnormal heart valves, a history of a heart attack, and coronary artery disease can all lead to heart failure.

Shortness of breath is one of the most common symptoms. At first, a person may only notice it during physical activity. As the condition progresses, a person may develop shortness of breath while resting or sleeping.

A person with heart failure may also experience:

  • fatigue

Once a doctor has discovered the cause, they may recommend one of the following treatments:


Medications can treat heart failure, COPD, and anxiety.

Beta-blockers can improve the function of the heart and eventually reduce breathlessness.

Bronchodilators and corticosteroid inhalers can open the airways and improve airflow in people with COPD. This may result in reduced shortness of breath.

Antianxiety medication can lead to fewer panic attacks, and a person may stop waking up gasping for air.

Continuous positive airway pressure

Dental devices

Saline nasal sprays

These are often recommended to manage post-nasal drip. Using a neti pot to flush out the sinuses may also help.

Good sleep habits

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Carbon Dioxide And Panic Attacks

For many years, scientists have known that carbon dioxide can trigger responses in people with anxiety disorders. Only recently, however, researchers at the University of Iowa found a molecular explanation for such responses. They found that inhaling carbon dioxide increases brain acidity, which in turn instigates the release of a protein that plays a central role in ones anxiety and fear.

A logical extension of the studys finding relates to how we breathe. We do not necessarily have to breathe in carbon dioxide to experience a slight degree of poisoning from it. The human respiratory system works on an exchange of gases. We inhale oxygen, and we exhale carbon dioxide. Improper breathing can stop us from exhaling as much carbon dioxide as we should. Short, shallow breaths can cause a buildup in our system that in turn triggers a fear response.

Can Sleep Apnea Affect Mental Health

What Health Problems Can Sleep Apnea Cause?

The obstruction of breathing in sleep apnea results in hypoxemia in the body due to the collapse of the upper airway during sleep. The lack of sleep at night results in excessive daytime sleepiness, lack of alertness, poor concentration, and a higher depression rate, leading to severe mood disorders.

Studies have found a high association between OSA and psychiatric disorders, particularly MDD. Those patients who have psychiatric disorders and present symptoms of disturbed breathing during sleep should be screened for OSA.

The treatment of OSA through continuous positive airway pressure remarkably improves neurocognitive function as the patient is able to get better sleep and feels more revitalized and re-energetic. This results in an immense improvement in their quality of life.

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How Does Sleep Relate To Mental Health

Theres a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Living with a mental health problem can affect how well you sleep, and poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health.

Poor sleep leads to worrying. Worrying leads to poor sleep. Worrying about sleep is like your mind trying to fight itself. Thats a horrible place to be.

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Can Sleep Apnea Contribute To Anxiety

When the body experiences an apnea episode, the brain receives a panic signal to awaken the body to resume breathing. Unfortunately, this prevents the person from getting a peaceful and uninterrupted night of sleep. Eventually, this results in a sleep debt, which causes the brain to struggle to cope with stress. When a person experiences bad sleep over and over, their brains neurochemicals change and alter their mood and thinking pattern. This can affect the bodys ability to heal and recover and affect heart health and blood pressure which can result in other physiological health problems.

Apnea can cause the body to experience sweating, restlessness, fatigue, inability to concentrate, panic, rapid breathing, chest pain, hyperventilation, feeling of suffocation and more. These symptoms indicate anxiety which can be caused by apnea. If a patient already has an anxiety disorder, sleep apnea can aggravate it even more.

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Get Out Of Bed If You Cant Sleep

Pressuring yourself to fall asleep is counterproductive, Dr. Wertheimer says.

Instead, if you canât sleep, get up and engage in a relaxing activityjust make sure itâs not in bed.

âItâs a conditioning paradigm where youâre training your brain and body that the bed is a facilitator to fall asleep,â he explains.

If youâre struggling with sleep or still feeling tired after a full nightâs sleep, know youâre not alone.

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Treatment Options For Sleep Apnea And Anxiety


Since anxiety and sleep apnea aggravate each other, the best way to break their endless cycle is by treating both, but addressing sleep apnea first. Once a patient starts sleeping better at night, it can reduce their anxiety. If their anxiety is severe to begin with, it might make the most sense to treat the anxiety at the same time and then reduce the anxiety treatment after the sleep apnea treatment begins working.

To treat your sleep apnea, you can start by visiting the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha for a sleep apnea evaluation. If you havent been diagnosed yet, we can coodinate a diagnostic sleep test for you. Once you have a proper diagnosis, we can help you choose the right oral appliance to treat your sleep apnea. With sleep apnea treatment and anxiety treatment working side by side, youre bound to feel much better soon.

Call us at today to schedule a sleep apnea new patient appointment with one of our sleep dentists at Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center. We look forward to helping you sleep better and experience less anxiety.

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How Stress Keeps You Awake At Night The Vicious Cycle Of Bad Sleep And Stress

There are many ways in which the above mentioned physiological changes can make for a poor sleep. Heightened adrenaline levels and increased heart rate can cause tossing and turning and a feeling of restlessness.

When your body is experiencing chronic stress, it thinks its in a state of perpetual danger and that it shouldnt be sleeping! You might be able to fall asleep but not stay asleep and you might wake up frequently in the night.

You might find it hard to calm your thoughts and lay awake at night, worrying about your finances, relationship, work or whatever else is bothering you.

Overwork or being too busy during the day can also lead to stress and leave yourself with not enough time to get a good sleep. If you find yourself with not enough hours to sleep, you might not fall asleep easily when you finally do go, because you are overstimulated and overworked.

With no time to wind down at the end of your day, your body forgets which is rest time and which is time for action.

Not enough time and too much stress in your day might also mean that you dont have enough time to exercise, make time for friends and family or do otherwise relaxing and healthy activities that relieve stress, leading to a poor sleep at night.

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