What to do with sleep anxiety with sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a relatively common type of sleep disorder in the population, as it is estimated to affect about 10% of people. In fact, it is especially common in the elderly, as in the elderly the prevalence rate is around 30%.

But that it is a very generalized alteration does not mean that we should assume that it is something normal and that it is not advisable to do anything in front of it; There are effective ways to treat it today to prevent sleep apnea from significantly impairing our quality of life, and in this article we will focus on those related to sleep apnea. Management of anxiety, which can be a cause and a consequence of this problem.

What causes sleep apnea?

Specifically, sleep apnea is a disorder in which, during sleep, it reaches a point where air stops reaching the lungs for excessively long periods of more than 10 seconds.

This interruption of the air intake by the inspirations can be total or partial; in the latter case, this phenomenon is often called hypopnea. Yes when the body notices that it lacks oxygen, brain activity is altered and one enters a higher than normal state of activation to urgently step in and re-breathe something that usually wakes us up whenever it happens. As a result, we sleep poorly.

In most cases, the causes of sleep apnea are several interrelated factors, some psychological/behavioral in nature and some organic/biological in nature. Thus, a distinction is made between obstructive sleep apnea, in which there is a temporary collapse of the upper airways (part of the tissue becomes low or becomes too flexible, narrowing the space available for air circulation ); central apnea, in which the central nervous system stops issuing the order to breathe for a certain time; and mixed apnea, in which both occur. Obstructive sleep apnea is by far the most common form.

On the other hand, stress and anxiety play an important role in many cases of sleep apnea. When we accumulate stress and anxiety to levels that exceed what is mentally healthy, there are a number of changes in brain and airway activation patterns: we tend to hold our muscles longer tighter than normal. it can promote snoring and disruption of incoming airflow.

Why is it important to take stockings for sleep apnea?

People who suffer from sleep apnea and have not started any treatment experience various forms of discomfort, both physical and psychological. This is due to the poor quality of sleep which is a consequence of difficulty sleeping; even if he does not remember, the person wakes up several times during the night due to the lack of air reaching his lungs, and even when sleeping, there is not enough time left in each of the sleep phases because the activity of the nervous system is affected by these difficulties in breathing well.

Thus, the lack of adequate rest generates a feeling of fatigue, difficulty concentrating on tasks, memory problems (passenger), and also makes the person more exposed to anxiety and stress, all common symptoms of sleeping troubles. But in addition, sleep apnea has other harmful consequences in the field of physical health, especially in the medium and long term (while the psychological effects are felt from the first day).

Specifically, it tends to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems: Helps raise blood pressure and increases the risk of stroke. It also affects the risk of erectile dysfunction and headaches, and can lead to decreased libido.

How can it be treated by intervening in anxiety?

The most effective biomedical treatment for sleep apnea is based on the use of the CPAP device (Continuous Positive Pressure in the Airway).

It is a relatively small and very quiet type of electronic device that allows you to regulate the level of air pressure supplied by the respiratory tract and the level of humidity (thanks to the humidifier that most of these machines have integrated). But in the most extreme cases, it is recommended to undergo surgery.

However, as we saw earlier, treating stress and anxiety can also help. enjoy longer, more restful sleep. Let’s look at some of the most useful strategies to achieve this.

  • Training in relaxation techniques

  • Applying consistent sleep schedules

  • Adopt healthy lifestyle habits (to have more energy and ability to cope with tasks).

  • Mindfulness practice to reduce intrusive thoughts

  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing

  • Improve self-esteem and adjust self-efficacy

  • Avoid binge eating

  • Avoid drug use

  • You may be interested: “What is anxiety: how to recognize it and what to do”

Would you like to benefit from psychological support?

If you are interested in having professional psychological support, I invite you to contact me.

My name is Tomas Santa Cecilia and I am a Cognitive-Behavioural Model Intervention Psychologist, with whom I work helping individuals, families, and businesses. I can offer you my services in person or online via video call.

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