Does stress cause sleep apnea? Short answer is yes. Long answer is yes. But as most things in this universe tend to be, it’s a tad bit more complex than just answering the question so simply. Stress, anxiety, and depression aren’t just topics to have short answers for, especially when it affects our physical health. It’s known that anxiety can actually cause chest pain, breathing problems, and even dizziness. That’s quite an effect on our health. With that in mind, sleep is also an important part of our overall health, which means that if we’re not sleeping then our health declines greatly.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says, “Stress and anxiety may cause sleeping problems or make existing problems worse. And having an anxiety disorder exacerbates the problem.” (ADAA). Essentially, any psychological issue like anxiety or depression will indeed cause or make sleeping problems worse. It’s like a vicious cycle of no sleep due to stress and stress due to no sleep and then no sleep due to stress. The ADAA goes on to say this: “Research also shows that some form of sleep disruption is present in nearly all psychiatric disorders. Studies also show that people with chronic insomnia are at high risk of developing an anxiety disorder.”
This brings us to the first questions:
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is best described as a disorder in which a person stops breathing multiple times an hour, causing them to wake up. Add all those up and you have someone who is not getting required sleep each night, leading to all sorts of health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, daytime fatigue, and even diabetes.
How do you know if you have anxiety?
We’re not talking about random spurts of anxiety due to an outside stresser. Here, we’re talking about constant or consistent anxiety that doesn’t necessarily own a specific stresser. Healthline says it this way: “…when symptoms of anxiety become larger than the events that triggered them and begin to interfere with your life, they could be signs of an anxiety disorder.” (Julson, 2018).
Below are a few sure signs that you could be dealing with a disorder. Please note: these are just signs and symptoms. Do not use this to diagnose yourself or someone else with an anxiety disorder, but schedule an appointment with your doctor to receive proper diagnosis and treatment.
Wanted to start with the one that’s more obvious to the topic of this blog and work our way down. Trouble with sleep – whether that’s falling asleep or staying asleep – can be extremely debilitating. It keeps us from focusing at school or work, makes us agitated, and possibly even causes accidents on the road. So, does stress cause sleep apnea? Again, yes it does.
This could be constant fear of something that could potentially happen or a situation that doesn’t exist or something that happened in the past. It could also be irrational fears of objects or animals. Healthline says, “A phobia is defined as extreme anxiety or fear about a specific object or situation. The feeling is severe enough that it interferes with your ability to function normally.” (Julson, 2018).
The feeling of being on-edge or always tense. The muscles tighten, causing fatigue. It almost feels like white knuckling, but throughout the entire body. With that in mind, it’s not hard to imagine that sleep is difficult to obtain if the body is in a constant state of fight-or-flight.
Imagine always being on-edge, never getting sleep, and constantly being in a state of worry about something that you may not even be aware of. From there, agitation seems like a pretty easy feeling to transition to.
Good news! There is a solution to all of this and it comes in two forms: treating anxiety and treating sleep apnea.
Attacking the source of the sleep disorder could have great, positive effects on the person’s sleep. Our source at Healthline states, “What is known is that when the underlying anxiety disorder is treated, insomnia often improves as well.” (Julson, 2018).
Treating sleep apnea
Even if you’re in treatment for anxiety, sleep apnea can still be a present force in your life, which causes even more anxiety. For this treatment, seek a sleep study where medical professionals can determine if you actually have sleep apnea. From there, treatments are discussed, usually in the form of CPAP. Another solution is the new Inspire device – an innovative alternative to CPAP that doesn’t require all the tubes and machinery. Just watch the videos below to learn more:
If you’re interested in receiving a sleep study, which can be done at-home or in-office, call 770-740-1860 or fill out the form at the top of the page. Want to learn more about Inspire? Fill out the form to the right.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Understanding the Facts: Sleep Disorders [Website] Retrieved February 7, 2020 from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/sleep-disorders
Julson, E. (2018, April 10). 11 Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders. Healthline. Retrieved February 7, 2020 from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/anxiety-disorder-symptoms