Scientists have known for a while that having one health problem may be a sign that you may have other health problems as well. The concept of interconnectedness applies to both body and mind.
As you probably know, a negative emotional state like sadness, anger, or anxiety can trigger physical problems and even disease. And the reverse is also true in that suffering from a physical condition can negatively affect your mood and psychological health.
This is especially important when it comes to basic body functions, such as being able to get a good rest at night. Sleep disturbances can pose serious health problems, ranging from obesity to cardiovascular disease. At the same time, there scientists have found a direct link between these disorders, higher stress levels, and mood disorders.
Let’s look at the research
In 2012, a group of medical researchers studied the connection between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
OSA is a potentially dangerous condition that can increase the risk of developing life-threatening diseases or premature death. In the past, research on this condition mainly focused on its effects on physical health. In the 2012 study, the focus was on how OSA contributes to negative emotional states. The findings suggested that severe OSA was correlated with depression and anxiety, and also that the connection was stronger in females than in males.
Other studies have found a link between the severity of anxiety disorders and people’s ability to rest well at night. This is the case of people who suffer from PTSD, and is even more evident in people with both anxiety and apnea, since their symptoms are more intense.
Even more evidence of this connection was found when researchers compared healthcare data belonging to 4 million veterans. When patient records were compared, researchers found that more than 20% of veterans diagnosed with apnea also suffered from depression. There were similar findings for anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorders, which were also present in significant numbers among veterans with apnea.
Complicated problem — but there are answers
Although the nature of the relationship between these two conditions isn’t 100% clear, neuroscientists now know that sleep deprivation causes increased activity levels in the parts of the brain that trigger anxiety and that regulate emotions.
Another interesting finding is that people who have a natural tendency to worry or be anxious find it harder to cope with the effects of insufficient rest.
But this also has a positive side: people who are stressed or affected by anxiety can experience an improvement in their symptoms when they get a good night’s rest. This reinforces something we have known for quite a while: that being well- rested is crucial to our mental health. If you often have restless nights and are struggling with anxiety, you will want to know what you can do to improve the situation.
Talk to a Millenium doctor
A Millennium sleep specialist can help you get answers, looking for the root cause of the problem before offering treatment. This can even be a telemedicine visit.
A simple sleep test done in your own home may find the cause is obstructive sleep apnea. If so, the recommended treatment could be form of CPAP therapy using a flow of air to keep your airway open. Treatment could also be an oral appliance, similar to a mouth guard, that hold the jaw (mandible) forward to maintain an open airway. Both reduce the number of breathing interruptions and helping you rest better.
Additional Options and Tips
On the other hand, if the cause is an underlying mood disorder, you may find that cognitive behavioural therapy will help. This involves several appointments with a therapist who will show you how to identity your main triggers, as well as useful coping skills and stress management techniques. Once you have more control over your negative emotions, you will be more likely to rest soundly at night.
In addition to that, there are other things you can do on your own to give your body and mind the quality rest they need to stay healthy. One of those things is meditation, which comes in really handy for apnea sufferers given its focus on controlled breathing.
Exercising regularly is another thing that can help both apnea and anxiety sufferers. Whether it’s yoga or walking, exercise will bring your stress levels down. And a consistent exercise routine can also reduce your apnea symptoms.
As you can see, there are many tools available to ensure you are in optimal mental and physical health.