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How does sleep apnea affect mental health?

How does sleep apnea affect mental health?

Sleep Apnea has a number 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 causes sufferers to awaken frequently, snore loudly, and experience disturbances in their dreams. Sleep Apnea can interfere with the brain’s oxygen supply, making it potentially life-threatening.

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


Individuals with sleep apnea are more likely to experience depression than the general population according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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

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


Sleep is a time when both the brain and body are supposed to be resting. The fact that sleep apnea affects people while they are sleeping can be particularly problematic.

For some the threat of breathing problems causes severe anxiety. This anxiety can make sleep problems even worse. Since sleep deprivation can contribute to both depression and anxiety, a vicious cycle can develop for those suffering from sleep apnea.

Relationship Problems

People often discover that they have sleep apnea thanks to their sleep partner, who notices it because it wakes 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. Often the partner will end up sleeping in a separate bedroom. This decreases opportunities for intimacy, leading to greater relationship dissatisfaction and stress for both parties.

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.

Because people with sleep apnea awaken frequently they may not be able to enter the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep state. REM sleep is required for dreaming.

People who do not enter or remain in REM sleep experience a number of mental health problems including memory problems and anxiety.

Cognitive Impairment

People who have sleep apnea tend to become increasingly exhausted during the day. They often have difficulties focusing on important job related tasks.

Lack of sleep can also alter mood, making people with sleep apnea jumpy or quick-tempered. Lack of sleep can also make it difficult for suffers to effectively navigate the normal day-to-day challenges.

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

If you are 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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