How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Mental Health?

Sleep apnea can affect our mental health. (Image via Pexels/ Pexels)
Sleep apnea can affect mental health in many ways. (Image via Pexels/Pexels)

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes breathing to stop and start again. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most frequent type. It's brought on by soft tissue in the back of the throat relaxing, which narrows the airway. The amount of air that enters the lungs is reduced when the airway continually becomes clogged.

Due to this difficulty in breathing, the brain briefly wakes you up from sleep so that you can reopen your airway. Usually, this revelation is so fleeting that you don't recall it.

You might snort, gulp, or start to choke. In more severe circumstances, that may occur hundreds or even thousands of times per night. People with OSA might not even be aware that their sleep is disturbed.


Treatment options for sleep apnea include dietary adjustments, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), breathing devices, mouthpieces, and in severe cases, surgery.

Effects of Sleep Apnea on Mental Health

Disturbances in sleep can affect mental health. (Image via Unsplash/Rodrigo Pereira)
Disturbances in sleep can affect mental health. (Image via Unsplash/Rodrigo Pereira)

Physical health problems associated with untreated sleep apnea, such as an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and heart failure, are frequently discussed. However, the repercussions of apnea on mental health don't often get as much attention.

Sleep is essential for all the functions in our daily life. According to Maslow's hierarchy, it forms the basis for our motivation. A night of insufficient sleep can significantly affect thoughts, mood, and behavior.

Anxiety, panic disorder, sadness, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia are far more common in people with apnea. It makes sense that it could lead to anxiety. The body and brain go into a stress response when you regularly wake up in the middle of the night feeling like you're choking or can't breathe.

That may lead to daytime tiredness and irritation that contributes to work and attention issues, and relationship stress. As your life spirals out of control, you're likely to experience anxiety.

You might also go through depression. Insomnia is one of the most frequent symptoms of depression, and people with depression frequently report having difficulties sleeping.

In reality, many additional apnea symptoms, including fatigue, daytime lethargy, irritability, lack of attention, and weight gain, are also indications of depression. Treatment for apnea can lessen the symptoms of depression, but if you continue to experience mood issues after starting treatment, you should also seek mental health care.

It has also been connected to schizophrenia. Apnea alters the brain, so it makes sense that you would experience another brain disorder. Sleep apnea is six times more common in those with schizophrenia. Like depression, the two conditions share symptoms, including daytime sleepiness and mood swings.

Types of Sleep Apnea


Sleep has been the subject of research for a really long time. Here are the three main types of apnea:

1) Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

When you have obstructive sleep apnea, the brain wakes you up in the middle of the night to force more air into the lungs.


According to research, there has been a considerable increase in OSA instances over the past two decades. That's probably caused by obesity, one of the most prevalent risk factors for OSA, which has sharply increased.

As doctors and the general public are becoming more aware of the condition, more people are getting checked for it.

2) Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

OSA is more frequent than CSA. Detecting and treating it may also be more difficult.


It develops when the brain does not properly communicate with the muscles that govern breathing, as opposed to OSA, which is brought on by a mechanical issue that restricts the airway. People with underlying disorders like brain infections or other conditions that affect the brainstem are frequently affected by CPA as well.

3) Complex Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Breathing issues persist in people with CSA syndrome even when the airway blockage is addressed and treated, indicating that something other than collapsing throat muscles is contributing to the apnea.


The issue is that CSA's exact causes and the salient features that characterize it are still widely discussed among experts in the field of sleep medicine.


Your mental and physical health depends on you managing sleep apnea with doable at-home measures and medical advice. According to research, treating OSA early on can benefit both emotional and physical health by addressing the symptoms before they worsen and become a life-threatening situation.

There's no assurance that treating apnea would fix a mental health problem. However, by addressing OSA right on, you can place yourself in a better position to improve your mental health, as you will be at least properly rested.

Janvi Kapur is a counselor with a Master's degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology.

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Edited by Bhargav
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