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The Link Between Stress and Sleep Apnoea

Depair/stress man Depair/stress man by Image by Davidqr from Pixabay

Stress can often lead to sleepless nights and those who suffer with the sleep disorder sleep apnoea may wonder whether it could be an underlying factor behind their condition. 

Does Anxiety Cause Sleep Apnoea?

As of yet, research indicates there is no direct evidence to suggest it does. Obstructive sleep apnoea has underlying physical causes, with obesity a leading risk factor. 

Yet being anxious does create problems for basic sleep health and even if it might not be a direct cause of OSA, it can likely have a detrimental impact. If you are struggling to get a good night’s sleep due to stress, this could aggravate your OSA, possibly negating any treatment you are receiving for the disorder.

Can Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Lead to Feeling Stressed?

Sleep debt resulting from OSA can cause physiological changes within the body which can make you more anxious and lead to panic attacks. Proper sleep helps the body relax and repair overnight, reducing muscle tension brought on by the day’s stresses. 

Frequent interruptions to sleep impairs this restorative process. The body can’t recover from the day’s stresses, so the anxiety and muscle tension continue to build. Research has found a stressed body adds to stressful thoughts.

The brain also finds it tougher to deal with stress when it is sleep-deprived, a reason those with OSA can become moody and irritable. OSA also leads to an increased risk of depression. 

The neurochemicals within the brain -- which affect how a person thinks and affects someone’s mood -- are impacted when you are not getting consistently good sleep. Your heart and blood pressure are also affected by sleep deprivation, which can lead to further health problems to worry about. 

The apneas (pauses in breathing) which interrupt the sleep can create health issues which make you feel stressed or add to your existing anxiousness.

Ways to Reduce Your Stress Level

People diagnosed with sleep apnoea will be advised of a treatment course appropriate for the severity of their disorder. However, being stressed can negate the effectiveness of this treatment by making it difficult to fall asleep in the first place. 

Therefore, it’s important to find ways to reduce anxiety. It may not be simple or quick to make the necessary adjustments, but you can make healthy changes in your lifestyle to improve how you feel and your mood.

A healthier diet alongside exercise can improve both our physical and mental health, relieving some of the stress we feel. Family and friends are also vital in the process, not only by providing support but from the relaxation time spent in good company brings.

Stay Safe & Stay Healthy

In today’s Covid-19 environment, we must keep safe distance. Skype or Zoom can be a fun way to connect with people. Or just call -- or text. Everyone understands the need to stay safe. 

Getting a consistently good night’s sleep is another way to reduce levels of anxiousness. However, for those with OSA that is very much easier said than done. 

That’s why it is critical to stay with CPAP therapy, and keep your CPAP equipment clean and well-functioning. 

Author: Jenny Hall

About author: Jenny Hall is a clinical manager at Baywater Healthcare. She has extensive specialist clinical experience from Regional Nurse Adviser through to Senior Nurse Adviser, Service Lead and Contract Manager. She has provided leadership for the Regional Nurse Advisers ensuring best practice, implementation of National Guidance and Clinical Governance. Ms. Hall has worked with Baywater Healthcare since 2013, with leadership responsibility in delivering Home Oxygen and Long-Term Conditions services. Her clinical team focuses on delivering services closer to home which offer the NHS value with optimum clinical outcomes. Previously, Ms. Hall provided leadership to Regional Nurse Advisors with Air Products, a company providing home oxygen services to Wales, East Midlands and North London. She has served as a Senior COPD National Trainer and Nurse Adviser COPD Response with Innovex, ensuring highest competencies were maintained and best practices delivered. Ms. Hall has a Ba Honours Degree as a Registered General Nurse from Oxford Brookes University and MSc Health Studies from Staffordshire University. She completed Respiratory Education and Training Courses and the Edinburgh Sleep Course. Jenny Hall’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-hall-34331b60/

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