How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Energy and Mood

How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Energy and Mood

If you can’t recall the last time you woke up feeling well-rested, refreshed, alert, and ready to take on your day, you’re not alone: A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that three in four adults in the United States deal with one or more of the following sleep disorder symptoms on a regular basis:

For about 39 million Americans, it’s sleep apnea — or sleep-disordered breathing — that erodes their ability to get the kind of deep, restful sleep they need to restore their bodies, reset their minds, and replenish their energy. 

At Fivestar Pulmonary Associates in Allen, McKinney, and Plano, Texas, our expert team of board-certified pulmonologists and sleep medicine specialists knows that for all the ways uncontrolled sleep apnea can undermine your physical health, its profound effects on your energy and mood are usually the first thing you notice. 

Understanding obstructive sleep apnea 

Apnea is a Greek word that means “without breath.” That’s precisely what sleep apnea is: a chronic sleep-disordered breathing condition that repeatedly stops your respiration as you sleep. These spontaneous breathing pauses last at least 10 seconds — and in some cases, a minute or longer — occurring many times in a single hour of sleep. 

As the most common form of sleep-disordered breathing, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the soft tissues in your airway relax and partially collapse, causing repeated respiratory pauses, partial awakenings as your breathing restarts, and often, chronic snoring. 

During these breathing pauses, your brain, heart, and other vital organs don’t get enough oxygen, and carbon dioxide starts to build up in your body. When your brain recognizes this dangerous imbalance, it: 

When your body is continually deprived of oxygen and then flooded with a powerful fight or flight stress hormone — especially when you’re supposed to be in rest mode — it strains your circulatory system and sets the stage for many serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. 

Sleep apnea can sap your energy levels 

Early on, well before the ongoing oxygen deprivation/adrenaline rush cycle of untreated sleep apnea damages your cardiovascular health, it takes a massive toll on your energy levels. The sleep fragmentation associated with apnea events can cause:

Essentially, every partial awakening that happens when your breathing starts again disrupts your sleep cycle without waking you fully. Because this cycle repeats itself throughout the night, you feel exhausted in the morning despite having “slept” through the night. 

Sleep apnea can undermine your mood 

It’s not surprising that the sleep fragmentation caused by having dozens of apnea events each night can also alter your mood. Everyone knows what it’s like to feel irritable, angry, moody, or in a mental fog after a bad night’s sleep; sleep apnea has the potential to keep you in this imbalanced mental and emotional state in perpetuity. 

During normal, restful sleep, your body is hard at work restoring itself and supporting healthy brain function. This includes clearing toxins, consolidating memories, forming new pathways, and diffusing emotional stress. Sleep apnea impairs these processes, setting the stage for: 

Mood disorders

Depression and uncontrolled sleep apnea go hand-in-hand; prevalence studies indicate that as many as three in five people (63%) with sleep apnea are also clinically depressed. People with OSA and co-occurring severe depression tend to experience high levels of daytime fatigue and sleepiness too. 

Anxiety disorders 

Untreated sleep apnea is also associated with an increased likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder. According to one study, more than one in two people (54%) with OSA have some degree of ongoing anxiety. This may be partly due to the high levels of stress hormones that occur each night with sleep apnea. 

Protecting your energy, mood, and health

Most people who find out they have sleep apnea view their diagnosis with a sense of relief rather than worry simply because they know for certain what’s been diminishing their energy levels, mood, and ability to function each day.

Luckily, sleep apnea is a highly treatable problem that can usually be well-controlled with lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and smoking cessation, and interventional therapies like using a CPAP machine or wearing an oral mandibular device. 

Feeling tired and irritable all the time? You may have sleep apnea — and we can help. Call or click online to schedule a visit at your nearest Fivestar Pulmonary Associates office today. Get started now by filling out our sleep apnea questionnaire.

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