Anxiety & Sleep Apnea: Your Body & Brain At War
Is there a link between sleep apnea and anxiety?
There’s a growing crisis in America — no, we’re not talking about COVID, although the last year certainly didn’t help the situation.
We’re talking about the relentless angst…the knot in your stomach... the dreary grey cloud that some people simply can’t escape…
We’re talking about anxiety.
While there may be a lot of reasons for this anxiety, especially from this past year, there may be a hidden villain at play here.
Your anxiety may be a result of the quality of your sleep.
That’s right...did you know that sleep apnea is directly connected to anxiety?
May sound a bit strange at first, but makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
What is anxiety? It’s your body’s natural response to stress. It’s the persistent worry and fear about what’s going to happen.
And what happens to your body when you suffer from sleep apnea? Your airway shuts down on itself. You choke and gasp for air and you stop breathing altogether, sometimes up to 100 times per hour.
Snoring & Sleep Apnea: Your body goes to war!
When you go to bed each night, your brain prepares for battle. It gets conditioned to fight to keep you alive. Your brain knows that as soon as your head hits the pillow, it’s time for a fight. This villain, who only shows himself at night, will soon throw the first punch -- err, more accurately -- throw the first chokehold with relentless grasp around your airway.
Your body knows that soon you’ll be gasping and fighting for the air it desperately needs to survive.
It’s like anxiety-provoking training, that teaches your body to stay on edge. This is when you start to feel irritable and temperamental during the day ... like you’ve got a short fuse.
This is what it feels like to be within the grips of anxiety. Your heart rate increases. It gets hard to take a deep breath. It feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest. This is a very similar feeling to what your body goes through every night -- your airway collapses in on itself as you start to choke and suffocate in your sleep.
“You know, every time we lay down, your airway closes, so best to just not go to sleep ever again.”
This side effect of sleep apnea or OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) may also be disguised as insomnia to many people because your brain is putting off the inevitable battle. It says, “You know, every time we lay down, your airway closes, so best to just not go to sleep ever again.” This is why many people with OSA also get diagnosed with high blood pressure, because their body is always on guard and on edge.
It’s truly a vicious cycle. Your anxiety makes it hard to sleep and your sleep gives you anxiety.
The good news is all is not lost and there are options to treat your sleep apnea that allow your brain to disconnect the mental response from the physical causes.
When you treat your sleep apnea and alleviate the stress your body is putting your brain under, you can repair the damaging patterns that have developed. What was once anxiety-provoking becomes peaceful and restful.
And the white flag of surrender finally flies...and your nightly war comes to an end.