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Does Sleep Apnea Cause Anxiety?


Restless nights can be caused by anxiety, or can be the cause of it. If you suffer from sleep apnea, anxiety can result from lack of rest. It is estimated that over 12 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep apnea. Sleep apnea stops breathing – sometimes as many as 30 times per hour – leaving you feeling exhausted, and possibly anxious, during waking hours.

About Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common disorder. There are two types of sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Both cause cessation of breath during sleep. The more common obstructive sleep apnea occurs when airways in the nose or throat become blocked during sleep. This can be the result of structural issues such as narrow breathing passages. Central sleep apnea is caused by disrupted messages between the brain and muscles that control breathing.


Many people who have sleep apnea are unaware of it. If you think you may have sleep apnea, some common symptoms include daytime sleepiness or falling asleep at inappropriate times, loud snoring, waking up short of breath, dry mouth and sore throat upon wakening and difficulty staying asleep. You may also have a partner or parent who has witnessed breathing cessation. Those with sleep apnea may also experience headaches, fatigue, anxiety and poor attention span.

Risk Factors

Anyone can have sleep apnea, however there are some factors that increase the risk of developing it. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in those who are overweight, and those with thicker necks, but can appear in thin people as well. Genetics also play a role. If sleep apnea or narrow airways run in your family, you are more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Men more often have sleep apnea than women, and older adults are also more prone to the disorder. The use of alcohol, sedatives or smoking greatly increase the risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea as does chronic nasal congestion. Central sleep apnea is also more common in men and those over the age of 65. Heart and stroke patients are more likely to develop central sleep apnea.

The Connection with Anxiety

Missing out on a restorative sleep night after night reduces mental function and increases fatigue. Sleep apnea robs the body of restorative sleep and depletes your ability to cope with daily stresses. In addition, spending night after night gasping for breath leaves the body in a panicked state that translates into anxiety during waking hours. If you are suffering from daily anxiety and suspect sleep apnea is to blame, a doctor can diagnose the disorder.




Medline Plus
Sleep Apnea

Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Sleep Disorders

Understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome

Mayo Clinic
Sleep Apnea

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