Christians are sometimes reluctant to talk about mental health issues for many reasons. Whether it’s because it can be seen as a sign of weakness or because of the high standards we set for ourselves, we often feel anxious and worry we are not living up to God’s expectations. However, mental health is a real issue which needs to be addressed, including anxiety disorder or panic disorder.
Can sleep apnea cause anxiety? The short answer is yes. If you have sleep apnea, your body isn’t getting the oxygen it needs, which can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, and even panic. In fact, there is a strong link between sleep apnea and anxiety disorders.
To understand how this may occur, continue reading to take an in-depth look at the connection between the two conditions.
What Is Sleep Apnea and What Are the Symptoms?
Sleep apnea is a condition which can cause you to stop breathing for short periods of time while you are sleeping. These pauses can happen multiple times throughout the night, and they can be dangerous if left untreated. Almost one in five adults suffer from sleep apnea in the United States. Those who are overweight or assigned male at birth are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
There are three main types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which happens when your airway becomes blocked. Another form of sleep apnea, known as central sleep apnea, differs because your brain fails to send signals to your muscles which control breathing. If your airway is blocked and your brain fails to send the proper signals, these symptoms combine to form complex sleep apnea.
Common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud snoring
- Pauses in breathing during sleep
- Waking up gasping for air
- Morning headaches
- Daytime fatigue or excessive daytime sleepiness
- Chronic insomnia
- Chest pain
These symptoms can have a major impact on your quality of life and overall health. If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, you should consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment options.
What Are the Causes of Sleep Apnea?
Although the exact causes of sleep apnea vary from person to person, there are some common risk factors which can increase your chances of developing the condition. One common cause is neglecting your physical health by failing to obey the word of wisdom: Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Smoking and alcohol are two of the biggest risk factors people face when it comes to developing sleep apnea. However, there are also some people who are simply born with small airways, making it difficult for air to flow through.
How Does Sleep Apnea Impact Anxiety Levels and Overall Mental Health?
Most people know a good night’s sleep is important for physical health, but few realize the vital role it plays in mental health as well. Lack of sleep can cause anxiety and stress levels to rise, resulting in a vicious cycle. When we are anxious, we often have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. This can lead to sleep deprivation, which only makes anxiety worse.
In addition to reducing stress and promoting relaxation, quality sleep is essential for memory formation and consolidating information. Sleep disruption caused by sleep apnea can make it difficult to focus and concentrate, which can impact work performance, school grades, engagement in church, and overall productivity. These stressful situations can lead to more anxiety and further perpetuate the cycle.
How Can You Treat Sleep Apnea and Reduce Anxiety Levels Simultaneously?
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to sleep apnea, there are several treatments which can help. One of the most common treatments for sleep apnea is CPAP therapy. This involves wearing a mask attached to a machine during sleep which provides gentle continuous positive airway pressure to keep your airway open. Using a CPAP machine may take some time to get used to, but it can be very effective in treating sleep apnea.
Some other possible treatments include healthier lifestyle choices, such as taking up exercise and relaxation techniques, refraining from alcohol and caffeine before bed, or avoiding sleep medicine altogether. Making even small changes to your sleep habits can have a big impact on your anxiety levels, such as sleeping on your side instead of your back and establishing a regular sleep schedule.
For those with severe OSA, surgery is an option; however, it’s typically only recommended as a last resort for the treatment of OSA.
Are There Any Long-term Risks Associated With Untreated Sleep Apnea?
Untreated sleep apnea can pose serious health problems. Over time, it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and even diabetes. However, there is still much we don’t know about the effects of these long-term sleep disorders. Recent research suggests severe sleep apnea may be linked to psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety.
Sleep apnea patients report a higher risk of accidents and injuries, both at work and at home. This is likely due to daytime fatigue caused by sleep problems.
Are There Other Resources for Dealing With Sleep Apnea and Anxiety?
In addition to the resources mentioned above, there are a few faith-based support group programs which may be helpful if you are suffering from a combination of mental health issues and sleep apnea. These programs provide a safe and supportive environment to share experiences and to offer helpful tips and advice for managing symptoms.
Another helpful resource is the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, which is a non-profit organization that provides information and support for people living with anxiety and depression.
Whatever route you choose to take, remember God is with you, and He will never leave you alone. There are people who care about you and want to help you through this difficult time. Reach out for help when you need it, and don’t be afraid to ask for support from your friends, family, or community.
Sleep debt (sleep deficit) can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health, including your anxiety levels. However, the good news is there are things you can do to get the restful sleep you need.
If you think you might have sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to seek treatment from a sleep specialist. With the right help, you can get your anxiety under control and start on the path to a productive, healthy, and happy life.