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How Sleep Apnea Affects Mental Health

How Sleep Apnea Affects Mental Health

You may not be aware that sleep apnea can a negative impact on mental health as well as physical health. Here, our Surrey dentist explains how sleep apnea can negatively impact the mental health of those suffering from this common condition.

Sleep apnea is a relatively common sleep disorder. Those suffering from sleep apnea wake frequently throughout the night, experience disturbances in their dreams and tend to snore loudly. Since sleep apnea can interfere with the brain's oxygen supply it is also a potentially life-threatening condition.

People with sleep apnea don’t just have its physical effects to contend with, the condition can also have a negative impact on their mental health.


A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that individuals with sleep apnea were more likely to experience depression than people who do not suffer from the condition.

Depression has been linked to both poor sleep and lack of sleep. It's also important to note that the stress of having a serious medical condition like sleep apnea can also cause depression in sufferers.

Because sleep apnea reduces oxygen supply to the brain during sleep it is particularly likely to interfere with mental health. Lack of oxygen to the brain can alter brain function and thereby increase one’s likelihood of developing depression over time.


Sleep is a time when the brain and body are supposed to be resting. The fact sleep apnea affects people while they’re sleeping makes this condition particularly problematic.

A vicious cycle of anxiety can develop since the threat of breathing problems can cause severe anxiety, and this anxiety in turn can worsen sleep problems; Since sleep deprivation can contribute to both depression and anxiety, sufferers can find themselves becoming increasingly more anxious as time goes by.

Relationship Problems

Often people only discover that they have sleep apnea thanks to their sleep partner. It is common for partners are to be kept awake at night due to the sleep apnea related snoring.

Regardless of how supportive the partner may be, they may simply be unable to sleep with their loved one snoring beside them each night.  Often this leads to sleeping in separate bedrooms, which in turn decreases opportunities for intimacy, leading to greater relationship dissatisfaction and stress for both partners.

Changes in Dreams

It is believed that dreaming allows the brain to encode memories and process the events of the previous day.

Those who suffer from sleep apnea may not enter the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep state required for dreaming, because they waken so frequently throughout the night.

When a person doesn't enter or remain in REM sleep they can experience a number of mental health problems ranging from memory problems to anxiety.

Cognitive Impairment

Typically, people who have sleep apnea become increasingly exhausted during the day, and often have difficulties focusing on important tasks.

Inadequate sleep can also negatively impact mood. People with sleep apnea can be jumpy or quick-tempered, making it difficult for them to effectively navigate normal day-to-day issues.

Clearly, many of the mental health problems associated with sleep apnea are connected to one another. Luckily, there are a number of effective treatments available for this condition.

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Guildford Heights Dental Centre to book an assessment with one of our dentists.

We're your family dentists in Surrey, BC.

Contact Guildford Heights Dental today to book a consultation for you or your family. 

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