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Effects of Sleep Apnea on Mental Health

Effects of Sleep Apnea on Mental Health

Posted in General

Effects of Sleep Apnea on Mental Health

Sleep Apnea has a variety of physical effects on the body, but you may not know that sleep apnea can have a negative impact on mental health too. Here our Surrey dentist's tell you more about sleep apnea's negative impacts on mental health.


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

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

Increased Risk of Depression

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

Poor sleep quality or lack of sleep is linked to depression, and the stress of having a serious medical condition like sleep apnea can also cause depression in some people.

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

Increased Risk of Anxiety

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

The threat of breathing problems can cause severe anxiety, and this anxiety, in turn, can make sleep problems worse. Since sleep deprivation can contribute to both depression and anxiety, a vicious cycle can develop for those people who suffer from sleep apnea.

Increased Stress on Relationships

Many people learn that they have sleep apnea thanks to their sleep partner. Often partners complain that the snoring associated with sleep apnea is keeping them awake 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. Frequently this leads to sleeping in separate bedrooms. This separation decreases opportunities for intimacy, leading to greater relationship dissatisfaction and stress for both parties.

Changes in Dreams

There is evidence to suggest that dreaming allows the brain to process the events of the previous day, and to encode memories.

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

When people do not enter or remain in REM sleep they can experience a number of mental health problems, ranging from memory problems to anxiety.

Cognitive Impairment

Often people who have sleep apnea become increasingly exhausted during the day, and can experience 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, 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. Fortunately, there are 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 office to book an assessment with one of our dentists.

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