Stress, Anxiety and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Most of us are already aware of the dangers posed by significant amounts of stress and anxiety. These feelings can lead to irritability, substance abuse, work-related issues, weaker immune system, and even some types of chronic illnesses.

However, there is also a connection with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In light of the current COVID-19 crisis, it’s very important that we recognize the stress that people are experiencing -- and how it can affect their OSA.

A Stressful or Anxious State of Mind Impacts Our Sleep

Stressful thoughts can have many different impacts upon what would have otherwise proven to be a normal sleep cycle. This arises from the well-known fact that our quality of sleep will dictate our overall health. A lack of sufficient sleep will inevitably lead to feelings of lethargy and apathy throughout the day.

Should this become chronic (such as with those who experience insomnia or who have already been diagnosed with OSA), the dangers can become even more profound.

Anxious and stressful feelings will begin to affect the physical metabolism of your body. Chemicals such as cortisol are produced causing greater chances of weight gain over time.

When these metabolic factors are combined with an unhealthy diet or a reliance upon sedatives (such as alcohol) in order to obtain a sound night of rest, it becomes clear that a vicious cycle begins to develop. This will cause even more negative feelings and thus, it can become nearly impossible to get between seven and eight hours of solid sleep.

The Connection with Sleep Apnea

We should first point out that the relationship between emotions and a proven clinical condition are subjective. They will vary from individual to individual. One example can be seen when referring to those who have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It has been found that those with PTSD are at a higher risk of developing OSA. However, there is no evidence to suggest that OSA will lead to PTSD. Any connections are indirect in nature.

However, there is no doubt that those who are unable to obtain the appropriate amount of sleep are much more likely to suffer from general health problems that might first appear to be unrelated. Some examples include hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

This risk is compounded due to the fact that poor sleep is also associated with lower levels of energy throughout the day. Thus, more sugary foods may be consumed yet there may be less physical exercise. Both of these habits are known to lead to chronic health issues. Therefore, the intention should be to mitigate any feelings of stress or anxiety that may be present. What steps can you take?

How Can You Learn to Manage These Feelings?

The first thing to appreciate is that negative feelings can form habits. As they are ingrained into our mentality, they can become very difficult to change. This is why one of the most important steps is to try to identify the root causes. If you are able to determine specific situations (such as pressure at home or work) which trigger such responses, it is much easier to develop coping mechanisms over time.

It is also wise to realize you can’t control everything. For instance, simply quitting a stressful job will not solve the problem. If anything, such an action is only likely to lead to more mental problems and anxious feelings. This is why it is a good idea to find activities which can act as "buffers" (ways to reduce your stressful feelings. Some examples include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • Spending time with friends and family.
  • Adopting a regular exercise routine (even if you are tired).
  • Performing calming activities such as yoga, meditation or reading a book).
  • Speaking with a therapist in order to get to the root of the problem.

In this time of COVID-19, you must keep in mind social distancing -- so your connections can be via Skype or telehealth. It’s possible to find good therapists online who provide a phone consultation. If you need the help, it’s important to reach out and get it.

We mentioned diet earlier in this article and such a point deserves further attention. Not only can poor eating habits lead to health problems, but they can even cause feelings of sluggishness or irritability.

This is why it is important to make sure that you eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Limit your intake of processed sugars, carbohydrates and saturated fats. Try to cut caffeine out of your diet. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Avoid alcohol and other stimulants at all costs.

Additional Treatment Options for OSA

If you have already been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, the chances are high that you are required to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

Never take the presence of this device for granted. Due to its ability to supply your body with a higher level of oxygen during the overnight hours, you will be able to obtain a solid block of sleep. These units are highly effective and when used properly, they are potent weapons against OSA.

Proactive as Opposed to Reactive

In some cases, stressful and anxious feelings will not simply disappear on their own. You will need to adopt a proactive approach in order to determine their causes as well as to find the most logical treatment options. If left to their own devices, these conditions can wreak havoc upon the body as well as the mind.

This is why it is critical to develop targeted management techniques and to utilise a CPAP machine so that you can obtain the amount of restorative sleep that you need.

You can call SleepQuest at any time, to talk with a sleep specialist via video conferencing.

For more information, please contact us at:  Our team is ready to answer all your questions to ensure your complete satisfaction with CPAP. DON'T HESITATE TO CONTACT US.