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Anxiety & Sleep Apnea: A Two-Way Relationship

February 9, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — dr_carollo @ 8:22 pm
Woman soundly sleeping after sleep apnea treatment

Did you know that anxiety disorders and sleep apnea are both currently on the rise? Sleep apnea affects over 20 million Americans, and recent studies show that over half of those with this disorder also suffer from some variation of anxiety or depression. But how are these seemingly separate issues connected? Anxiety and sleep apnea are like fish and water – when you find one, you’ll almost always find the other. Read on to learn more about this surprising connection as well as what you can do to improve your sleep and mental health.

First, a Quick Overview

It’s tough to understand the relationship between sleep apnea and anxiety before first defining these conditions:

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea occurs when your tongue and/or throat muscles relax to the point that they block your airway, making it difficult to breathe. This interrupted breathing can happen sometimes hundreds of times in just one night, leading to restlessness, poor quality sleep, daytime drowsiness, and many other symptoms.


You may have never explicitly thought about it, but anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. Feeling anxious in a stressful situation is completely normal. But, as you may unfortunately know, everyday life isn’t the only factor that contributes to anxiety, which is where sleep apnea comes into play.

Sleep Apnea and Anxiety – A Loop that Never Ends (without Treatment)

So how are sleep apnea and anxiety connected? Primarily, they share a common symptom: insomnia (not being able to fall or stay asleep). But which comes first: do you have anxiety due to your sleep apnea or sleep apnea because of your anxiety? It’s kind of like the chicken or the egg question!

When sleep apnea occurs, and you’re having difficulty inhaling/exhaling, your brain sends a signal that panics your body, so you wake up and resume breathing. This interruption is not only stressful on your body, but it prevents you from reaching all of the sleep stages. Known as sleep debt, this lack of sleep makes it more difficult for your brain to cope with stress. Of course, this stress leads to anxiety, which is where the issues directly intersect. Unfortunately, this added stress can eventually lead to increased risks of overall health issues like high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in addition to day-to-day anxiety.

Get Sleep Apnea Treatment

Thankfully, your dentist can provide you with effective treatments for sleep apnea in the form of custom-made oral appliances that allow you to breathe better. By getting your sleep under control, you can enjoy more restful nights, breaking the cycle of sleep apnea and anxiety.

Contact your dentist to improve your quality of life and start counting sheep with ease!

Meet the Dentist

Dr. Sonia Motwani is a highly trained dentist who is currently enrolled in the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine’s mastery track program and is pursuing diplomat status. She has a deep knowledge of the connection between your mouth, jaw, head, and airway, making her the perfect resource for sleep apnea treatment. For any questions, she can be contacted through her website or by phone at (973) 377-5117.

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