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How does sleep apnea affect mental health?

How does sleep apnea affect mental health?

Sleep Apnea has a number of negative effects on the body, but many people don’t realize that it can also have a negative impact on mental health. Here's more from our Vancouver dentist on the impact sleep apnea has on mental health.

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes sufferers to experience disturbances in their dreams, awaken frequently, and snore loudly. Sleep Apnea can even interfere with the brain’s oxygen supply, making it a potentially life-threatening condition.

However, those who suffer from sleep apnea may also experience a number of mental health challenges.


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

Depression has been linked to both lack of sleep and poor sleep quality. Also, the stress of having a serious medical condition such sleep apnea can lead to depression in some individuals.

Because sleep apnea reduces oxygen supply to the brain during sleep it is particularly likely to negatively impact the mental health of sufferers. Lack of oxygen to the brain can alter brain function over time, thereby increasing the one's likelihood of developing depression.


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

In fact, for some people just the threat of breathing problems causes severe anxiety, and in turn this anxiety may make sleep problems even worse. A vicious cycle can develop for those suffering from sleep apnea since sleep deprivation can contribute to both depression and anxiety. 

Relationship Problems

Sleep partners are often the first people to alert their loved ones that they may have the condition. This is because the snoring often associated with sleep apnea keeps them awake at night too.

Often the partner will end up sleeping in a separate bedroom because they are unable to sleep due to the sleep apnea-related snoring happening right beside them. Sleeping in separate rooms decreases opportunities for intimacy, leading to increased relationship dissatisfaction and stress for both parties.

Changes in Dreams

Many professionals believe that dreaming allows the brain to process the events of the previous day, and to encode memories.

The fact that people with sleep apnea awaken frequently at night may mean that they are unable to enter the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep state. REM sleep is required for dreaming.

When a person does not enter or remain in REM sleep for a sufficient amount of time they can experience a number of mental health issues including memory problems and anxiety.

Cognitive Impairment

Exhaustion is a common symptom of sleep apnea. People who have sleep apnea tend to become increasingly exhausted during the day, leading to difficulties focusing on job related tasks.

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

Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments  available to help people suffering from sleep apnea.

If you are suffering from sleep apnea (or think you are), please don’t hesitate to contact our Vancouver dental office to book an assessment with one of our dentists.

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