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How Sleep Apnea Affects Mental Health

How Sleep Apnea Affects Mental Health

Many people know that Sleep Apnea has a number of negative effects on physical health but did you know that it can have a negative impact on mental health too? Here our Surrey dentist explains more.

Those suffering from sleep apnea tend to awaken frequently, snore loudly, and experience disturbances in their dreams. Sleep Apnea is also a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder, since it can interfere with the brain’s oxygen supply.

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


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

Lack of sleep and poor sleep quality are linked to depression, and the stress of having a serious medical condition such as sleep apnea can cause depression in some people.

Not only that, sleep apnea is particularly likely to interfere with mental health because it reduces oxygen supply to the brain during sleep! Lack of oxygen can alter brain function and increase one’s likelihood of developing depression.


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

Just the threat of breathing problems can cause severe anxiety in some people, which in turn, can make sleep problems even worse. Sleep deprivation can contribute to both depression and anxiety, which means that a vicious cycle could develop for those with sleep apnea.

Stress on Relationships

Often people discover that they have sleep apnea thanks to their sleep partner, who is kept awake at night by their loved one's snoring.

Regardless of how supportive the partner may be, they may simply be unable to sleep with sleep apnea-related snoring happening right beside them, and end up sleeping in a separate bedroom. This may lead to decreased opportunities for intimacy, leading to greater relationship dissatisfaction and stress for both parties.

Lack of REM Sleep

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

People with sleep apnea wake frequently throughout the night, which means that they may not be able to enter the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep state required for dreaming.

Those who do not enter or remain in REM sleep experience a number of mental health problems, ranging from memory problems to anxiety.

Cognitive Impairment

Sleep apnea sufferers are known to become increasingly exhausted during the day, and can have difficulties focusing on important activities, including job-related tasks.

Due to the lack of sleep, people with sleep apnea can be jumpy or quick-tempered, 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 a number of effective treatments for sleep apnea.

If you're 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. You deserve a good night's sleep!

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