Stress and sleep apnea

Are stress and sleep apnea connected? If you experience a lot of stress in your life, can that contribute to the development of sleep apnea? Does it affect sleep health in general?

Stress and sleep apnea: What’s the connection?

Conventional wisdom holds that stress and sleep apnea may be connected in terms of basic health. How well we sleep is often connected to how well we’re keeping up our health in general – exercising regularly, following a regular sleep schedule, avoiding excess caffeine and alcohol, among other factors.

And the degree to which we experience stress – or, perhaps more accurately, the extent to which we let stress get the better of us – is thought by many experts to interfere with our sleep.

“The right amount of stress can be a positive force that helps us to do our best and to keep alert and energetic,” as WebMD puts it. “Too much stress, however, can make us tense, anxious, and can cause sleep problems.”

The title of that WebMD article, “Tips to Reduce Stress and Sleep Better,” provides a pretty clear idea of how sleep and stress are connected. Read it here.

Stress and sleep apnea: Where OSA fits in

It makes sense that stress is related to basic sleep health. But is there also a connection to the more specific clinical condition of sleep apnea?

As with most medical conditions linked to sleep apnea, the connection between stress and sleep apnea is mostly indirect, and it varies from person to person. For instance, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been linked to sleep apnea. But usually, as we discussed a few months ago, sleep problems are thought to cause PTSD, not the other way around.

Beyond severe cases like PTSD, researchers haven’t drawn any specific clinical connections between stress and sleep apnea. The link, then, can mostly be attributed to sleep health in general.

Remember, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) involves physical causes, and central sleep apnea (CSA) involves causes related to the nervous system. So, if you have OSA and have been prescribed with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, then chances are good that your sleep apnea is caused by physical factors and not from stress or other lifestyle issues. All the same, even if you are on CPAP therapy, it’s still recommended that you follow the basic guidelines for general sleep health – and that includes keeping stress to a minimum.

Easier said than done, right? Whether or not we happen to be administrative professionals, stress is something that sometimes simply gets the better of us. It’s not always such a simple matter to filter it out of our day-to-day lives.

So, in conclusion, we’ll recap some helpful tips for dealing with stress in a sleep-healthy way from the WebMD article:

  1. Find out where stress is coming from, then work to isolate it.
  2. Spend time with your friends and family as a “buffer” against stress.
  3. Exercise to blow off steam and clear your mind from anxiety.
  4. Eat healthy – food that’s low in nutritional value “can leave us feeling out of energy and sluggish.”

This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.

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