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Q&A: Can Stress Cause Sleep Apnea?

Posted on January 27th, 2023 by

As we enter the new year and leave the post-holiday stress behind us, there may be new stressors or triggers affecting our energy levels and quality of sleep. Stress and anxiety are associated with an array of health issues, but can it actually cause sleep apnea?

In short, no, stress does not cause sleep apnea, but it can, however, intensify symptoms and have a major effect on your quality of life. There are successful treatment options available for sleep apnea, so a consultation with your dentist is highly recommended.

Diagram shows normal breathing on left, and sleep blocked airway from sleep apnea on right.

What is Sleep Apnea?

There are essentially two types of sleep apnea, which are distinguished by the cause behind them: Central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.

Central sleep apnea happens when your brain fails to signal the muscles that control your breathing. This type of sleep apnea can occur as a result of other health conditions like stroke.

The more common type of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, results from the muscles supporting your throat and soft palette relaxing. During this relaxation, your airway temporarily closes and breathing is cut off.

Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Poor quality of sleep is one of the most common complaints of sleep apnea, causing one to wake up feeling unrested or experiencing fatigue throughout the day. Other symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Concentration and focus issues
  • Hypersomnia
  • Insomnia
  • Loud snoring
  • Morning headaches

All of these symptoms can be intensified by stress. Over time, without treatment, you may be at increased risk of chronic acid reflux, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, or stroke.

Oral Appliances as Sleep Apnea Treatment

Treatments for sleep apnea include removable appliances worn at night. These work by positioning the jaw forward slightly, which enables the airway to stay open. The appliances are easy to care for, comfortable to wear, and effective for reducing sleep apnea symptoms.

To learn more about sleep apnea or to schedule a consultation, contact Art of Modern Dentistry.

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