April is Stress Awareness Month, which makes it an ideal time to examine the link between stress and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by interruptions in breathing while you sleep. Unfortunately, this chronic condition leads to fragmented sleep and a host of health issues. Stress can actually exacerbate the symptoms of sleep apnea, and this, in turn, causes sleep apnea to contribute to stress, creating a vicious cycle, which is bad news for your health.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, stress can affect your quality of sleep by making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep, leading to more frequent awakenings throughout the night. Not only that, but stress can trigger sleep-disordered breathing, such as sleep apnea, by causing the upper airway muscles to relax and narrow, making it much harder to breathe properly during sleep so your body is taxed instead of resting and repairing itself as it is supposed to be.
Sleep apnea is often a major contributor to daytime fatigue, causing additional stress to the mind and body. Sleep deprivation can lead to mood swings, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, which can exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety, becoming a vicious cycle leading to poor health.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
One of the ongoing challenges of sleep apnea is that many people are not aware they even have the condition. Symptoms may include snoring, gasping for air during sleep, or waking up feeling unrefreshed. The problem is these symptoms can also be attributed to other factors, such as allergies or poor sleep hygiene. As a result, many people with sleep apnea go undiagnosed and untreated.
If you feel that you or someone you love may be suffering from sleep apnea, it’s important to speak to a healthcare professional as soon as possible. A sleep study may be recommended to diagnose the condition so that treatment options may be taken. These can include making lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and exercise, as well as medical interventions, such as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy.
Managing stress is also an invaluable and important aspect of lowering your symptoms of sleep apnea. Some stress management techniques may include implementing a meditation practice, committing to regular exercise, or even seeking support from a mental health professional. It’s important to note that stress management techniques should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment for sleep apnea.
In addition to stress, other risk factors for sleep apnea include obesity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. The good news is, incorporating lifestyle changes, including losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol intake, can significantly help to lower your risk of sleep apnea and improve your overall health!
In conclusion, stress and sleep apnea are closely linked, so it is critical that you are made aware of the potential impact of stress on sleep quality and sleep-disordered breathing. By seeking medical attention for sleep apnea, and practicing stress management techniques, you can improve your sleep quality and overall health. As we observe Stress Awareness Month this April, it’s a good reminder to prioritize self-care and seek support when needed. We welcome you to reach out to our sleep specialists and see how we can help you get the sleep you need to live your best life!