Can Anxiety Cause Sleep Apnea?

can anxiety cause sleep apnea

Many people who suffer from anxiety also experience sleep problems like insomnia, sleep apnea, or other sleep disorders. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. Anxiety and sleep apnea frequently have a complex and intertwined relationship. The disruptions in sleep caused by apnea can exacerbate anxiety, resulting in a difficult cycle of tension and insomnia. It is not uncommon for these symptoms to worsen in certain situations, such as during air travel (Flight anxiety).

Understanding Anxiety and Sleep Apnea

Anxiety and sleep apnea are two distinct conditions that can negatively impact a person’s health and well-being. Understanding these two ailments separately can make it easier to grasp their potential correlation and impact.


Anxiety is an umbrella term for a group of mental health disorders that can manifest as excessive worry, fear, and nervousness. These feelings can be persistent and interfere with a person’s daily life, making it difficult to concentrate, relax, or sleep. Anxiety can stem from a variety of factors, including genetic predisposition, environmental triggers, and personal experiences or trauma.

Common anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias. Symptoms of anxiety can vary depending on the type and severity of the disorder, but may include:

  • Racing thoughts and excessive worry
  • Physical symptoms, such as sweating, shaking, or nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness or irritability

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep. These pauses, called apneas, can last from a few seconds to minutes and can occur up to several times per hour. This causes oxygen levels in the body to drop, leading to disruptions in sleep, and may result in other health complications if left untreated.

The two primary types of sleep apnea are obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA is caused by a physical blockage in the airway, often due to relaxed throat muscles or excess tissue in the throat. CSA, on the other hand, stems from a lack of respiratory effort from the brain.

Common symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Waking up gasping for air or choking
  • Feeling lethargic or exhausted during the day

Sleep apnea and anxiety can often coexist, with one condition exacerbating the other. It is essential to address these conditions promptly to minimize their impact on your health and quality of life.

The Connection Between Anxiety and Sleep Apnea

Anxiety and sleep apnea are two common health issues that can have a significant impact on a person’s well-being. While they may seem unrelated, there is evidence to suggest a possible link between the two.

Research studies have shown that individuals with anxiety are more likely to experience symptoms of sleep apnea. In fact, one study found that 52% of patients with sleep apnea also had symptoms of anxiety.

While the exact relationship between anxiety and sleep apnea is not fully understood, it is believed that anxiety may contribute to the development or worsening of sleep apnea symptoms. Anxiety can cause breathing patterns to become irregular, leading to disruptions in sleep. Additionally, anxiety can cause muscle tension and fatigue, which can also contribute to sleep apnea symptoms.

It is important to note that not all individuals with sleep apnea experience anxiety, and not all individuals with anxiety experience sleep apnea. However, for those who do experience both conditions, it is important to address and manage both issues to improve overall health and well-being.

Research Findings

Several studies have explored the relationship between anxiety and sleep apnea. One study found that individuals with anxiety were more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea, which is a type of sleep apnea caused by a partial or complete blockage of the airway during sleep.

Another study found that individuals with anxiety reported more severe sleep apnea symptoms, including increased snoring, daytime sleepiness, and reduced sleep quality.

While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between anxiety and sleep apnea, these studies suggest that anxiety may not only contribute to the development of sleep apnea but also worsen its symptoms.

How Anxiety Affects Sleep Quality

Anxiety can have a significant impact on sleep quality and exacerbate sleep apnea symptoms. Anxiety symptoms, such as racing thoughts, worry, and tension, can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. As a result, people with anxiety are more likely to experience disruptions in their sleep patterns, including multiple awakenings during the night, shallow breathing, and excessive sweating.

Research has shown that anxiety can also increase the likelihood of experiencing sleep apnea. When anxiety levels are high, the body’s stress response is triggered, leading to a narrowing of the airways and reduced oxygen intake. This can result in snoring, gasping for air, and interrupted sleep, all of which are common symptoms of sleep apnea.

Moreover, anxiety can lead to muscle tension and restricted breathing, making it difficult for air to flow freely through the airways. This can cause further disturbances in sleep patterns and exacerbate sleep apnea symptoms.

How to Reduce Anxiety and Improve Sleep Quality

If you struggle with anxiety and sleep apnea, there are steps you can take to improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety symptoms:

  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bed, as they can increase levels of anxiety and make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends, to regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Exercise regularly, as physical activity can help reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality.
  • Consider therapy or counseling to address underlying anxiety and stressors.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications or other treatment options, if necessary.
  • Check out our natural anxiety solutions that has helped out millions of people.

By adopting healthy sleep habits and coping strategies to manage anxiety, you can improve your overall sleep quality and minimize the impact of sleep apnea on your daily life.

Impact of Sleep Apnea on Anxiety

Sleep apnea can contribute to anxiety in a number of ways. As sleep apnea causes breathing disruptions throughout the night, the brain may become deprived of oxygen, leading to a state of hyperarousal and anxiety. Additionally, the constant awakenings and disturbances can lead to chronic sleep deprivation, which has been linked to anxiety disorders.

Research has found that those with sleep apnea are at a significantly higher risk of developing anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. This may be due in part to the impact of sleep apnea on the body’s stress response system, which can become dysregulated over time.

It is important to recognize the potential impact of sleep apnea on anxiety and seek treatment for both conditions in order to improve overall quality of life and reduce the risk of developing more severe health issues.

Managing Anxiety and Sleep Apnea

Managing anxiety and sleep apnea can be challenging, but there are various strategies you can try to improve your sleep quality and reduce anxiety symptoms. Here are some tips and recommendations:

Lifestyle changes

Start with simple lifestyle changes that can positively impact both conditions. For sleep apnea, try maintaining a regular sleep schedule and avoiding alcohol and sedatives before bedtime. For anxiety, consider practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga, and making time for regular exercise.


Therapy can be an effective tool for addressing both anxiety and sleep apnea. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular option for anxiety, helping individuals reframe negative thoughts and develop coping skills. For sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about whether a CPAP machine or oral appliance may be helpful, and consider working with a sleep therapist to better understand and manage your condition.

Medical interventions

In some cases, medication may be necessary to manage anxiety and sleep apnea. For anxiety, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed. For sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or surgery to remove excess tissue in the throat.

If you’re considering medication or other medical interventions, it’s important to discuss your options with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action for your specific needs.

Seeking Professional Help

While lifestyle changes and coping strategies can help manage anxiety and sleep apnea symptoms, it is important to seek professional help for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Your first step should be consulting your primary care physician, who can evaluate your symptoms and refer you to a specialist if necessary. A sleep specialist can conduct a sleep study to diagnose sleep apnea and determine the best treatment plan. A therapist or psychologist can also help address anxiety through talk therapy and other techniques.

If you are prescribed medication for anxiety or sleep apnea, it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and report any side effects or concerns. Additionally, if lifestyle changes and therapies do not sufficiently improve your symptoms, your doctor may recommend other medical interventions such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) for sleep apnea.

FAQ about Anxiety and Sleep Apnea

As awareness about the relationship between anxiety and sleep apnea grows, many people have questions and concerns. Here are some frequently asked questions and their answers:

Can anxiety make sleep apnea worse?

Yes, anxiety can make sleep apnea symptoms worse. Stress and anxiety can lead to shallow breathing or hyperventilation which, in turn, can exacerbate sleep apnea symptoms such as snoring and gasping for breath.

What are some signs of anxiety-induced sleep apnea?

Common symptoms of anxiety-induced sleep apnea include difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness during sleep, frequent waking up during the night, and feeling tired upon waking in the morning.

Can sleep apnea cause anxiety?

Yes, sleep apnea can contribute to anxiety. The sleep disruption and oxygen deprivation caused by sleep apnea can lead to feelings of anxiety, as well as fatigue and irritability during the day.

What are some coping strategies for anxiety and sleep apnea?

Coping strategies for anxiety and sleep apnea can include lifestyle changes such as exercise, stress management techniques such as meditation and yoga, and medical interventions like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy or medication. It is important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the best approach for your individual needs.

When should I see a doctor for anxiety and sleep apnea?

If you are experiencing ongoing symptoms of anxiety and sleep apnea, it is important to seek medical advice. Consult your primary care physician, a sleep specialist, or a mental health professional to discuss appropriate treatment options.

Is it possible to cure anxiety-induced sleep apnea?

While it may not be possible to cure anxiety-induced sleep apnea, it is possible to manage symptoms effectively through a combination of lifestyle changes and medical interventions. With proper treatment and ongoing support, many people with anxiety-induced sleep apnea are able to improve their quality of life and achieve better sleep.

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