Insomnia

Sleep Apnea & Its Impact on Your Mood

Portrait tired crew of office workers sit at table, fall asleep after working long hours on preparing startup project, feel tiredness, isolated over pink background. People and overworking concept

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.

~ Irish Proverb

Lack of a good night’s sleep impacts everyone. A bad night’s sleep can affect the rest of your day and if you are constantly struggling to get a good night’s sleep, then it may begin to impact your life overall. Sleep apnea is one sleep disorder that could potentially be affecting your sleep.  Approximately 3-7% of men and 2-5% of women have sleep apnea, and worldwide, over 100 million people suffer from sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is an issue that causes pauses in breathing throughout the sleep cycle. The most common forms of sleep apnea include; Obstructive sleep apnea, Central sleep apnea, and Complex sleep apnea syndrome. If you snore loudly, feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, experience headaches, you may be experiencing sleep apnea.

Common symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Restless sleep
  • Recurrent awakenings or insomnia
  • Morning headaches
  • Waking up with a very sore or dry throat
  • Occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation
  • Sleepiness or lack of energy during the day (insomnia or hypersomnia)
  • Sleepiness while driving
  • Forgetfulness, mood changes, and a decreased interest in sex

Sleep apnea can affect anyone, even children, but certain factors may increase your risk. Some factors include:

  • Excess weight
  • Family history
  • Nasal congestion
  • Smoking
  • Use of sedatives or alcohol
  • A narrowed airway

Not only does sleep apnea have physical effects, but it also may have an effect on a person’s mental health. Research has shown that people with sleep apnea are more likely to experience depression.

Multiethnic group of sleepy people women and men with wide open mouth yawning eyes closed looking bored. Lack of sleep laziness concept

Research also shows that people with sleep apnea also experience anxiety, cognitive impairment, and relationship problems. The reduced amount of oxygen at night can alter brain functioning, along with the stress that comes with having a medical condition in general.

People with sleep apnea have abnormally high levels of glutamate and lower levels of GABA. While GABA works as a mood inhibitor (keeping people calm), when glutamate levels are high, the brain is stressed and doesn’t work as well (Macey et al., 2016).

Mature Woman Covering Her Ears With Headphone While Man Snoring In Bed

If your sleep apnea begins to disrupt your partner’s sleep, it can decrease intimacy, especially if it is severe enough that you have to sleep separately. Disruption in sleep may stop you from entering REM sleep, which is when dreaming occurs. Dreams sometimes can provide the space to process events of your day and encode memories. Mental health professionals also believe that it is the “testing ground for anxiety-inducing scenarios, long-term goals, and everyday interactions.”

Lack of sleep can cause you to be exhausted in the day, consequently, possibly causing you to have less patience, inability to maintain focus, irritability, etc. These symptoms interfere with your daily life activities, therefore impacting your overall mood. 

While symptoms of sleep apnea can range from mild to severe, it may be necessary to seek professional help. If you are concerned that you have sleep apnea, seek help from your doctor to determine the best course of treatment so you can get that good night’s sleep you’ve been longing for and improve your mood for the better!

By Grand McDonald, PsyD

Resources:

  • GoodTherapy. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/sleep-apnea-mental-health-1215127
  • Healthline. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sleep/sleep-apnea-and-depression#symptoms
  • MayoClinic. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleep-apnea/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20377636
  • Paul M. Macey, Manoj K. Sarma, Rajakumar Nagarajan, Ravi Aysola, Jerome M. Siegel, Ronald M. Harper, M. Albert Thomas. Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with low GABA and high glutamate in the insular cortex. Journal of Sleep Research, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/jsr.12392
  • WebMD. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea/news/20160229/sleep-apnea-may-take-toll-on-your-mood-thinking-skills#1

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