Link Between Sleep Apnea And Mental Health

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Mental Health and Sleep

The relationship between sleep and physical health has always been intertwined. The same applies to the relation between sleep and mental health. Poor sleep can worsen many chronic mental illnesses. And some forms of mental disorders such as depression may be the direct result of sleep deprivation.

How Are Sleep Apnea and Mental Health Related?

While brain chemistry is not completely understood, it appears that a good night’s sleep gives the mind a period of restoration. Without that opportunity to recharge, brain chemistry alters. Existing mental health issues are aggravated. Compromised daytime alertness over long periods may lead to other mental disorders such as depression.

Lack of Sleep and Mental Health

Sleep and mental health are especially acute among sleep-deprived Americans. Chronic sleep disorders impact 50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric clinic, compared with 10% to 18% of adults in the general U.S. population. Sleep problems are particularly common in patients with existing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).1

How Sleep Affects Mental Health

How sleep affects mental health has led many psychiatrists to address sleep disorders to improve mental health issues. Many patients with psychiatric disorders regularly experience sleep deprivation, which also escalates their mental condition. Some mental illnesses may directly result from poor sleep. If health professionals can identify sleep disorders in patients, they can better treat their mental disorders by recommending sleep therapy.

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Mental Problems?

Sleep works in two cycles: quiet sleep and deep sleep. Quiet sleep prepares the brain to slip into a deeper stage of sleep. Also known as REM sleep, deep sleep is the stage at which the brain rejuvenates and restores. Disruptions in deep sleep prevent the brain from recharging itself, leading to increased symptoms of mental disorders during the day. Therefore, acting on the impact of sleep on mental health, doctors hope to improve mental health conditions for their patients struggling with common disorders.


Among the 300 million people who suffer from depression, 75% also exhibit signs of insomnia.2 Growing evidence suggests that poor sleep may intensify existing depression symptoms including feelings of hopelessness or sadness. Therefore, by focusing on improved sleep, some depression patients may improve their mental health.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal mood swings are also one of the subtypes of depression. This disorder happens at a particular time of the year when the hours of sunlight are reduced. This majorly affects the circadian rhythm of sleep and also the biological clock. People who suffer from seasonal affective disorder may sleep too much or too little and also experience changes in their sleep cycles.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar patients experience extremes of emotion from manias to depressions, a constant roller coaster that can impact wellness in everyday life. Additionally, research has found that bipolar disorder patients often experience changes in their sleep patterns before a bipolar episode. Better understanding the connection between bipolar disorder and sleep has led many doctors to treat a patient’s sleep disorder as part of their bipolar disorder treatment. 3

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may be impacting mental health. OSA frequently disrupts the REM sleep stage when the airway closes at night. Patients wake up gasping for air. If enough of these episodes occur during the night, a patient is left groggy and inattentive during the day. Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to depression. By treating the sleep disorder first, doctors may help a patient avoid mental health disorders later.

Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorder is marked by extreme anxiousness when there is no real threat. Moreover, abnormal sleep patterns may be aggravating anxiety disorder symptoms, Researchers have found that sleep deprivation will cause some kind of mental disorder if left untreated.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are social and behavioral disorders usually diagnosed in children and adolescents. ASD patients have been found to exhibit sleep deprivation patterns that may worsen their mental health conditions.4 Proper treatment for ASD has inspired many doctors to work on improving the healthy sleep of their patients for long-term wellness.


Schizophrenic patients can not differentiate between what is real and what is not real. People who are suffering from schizophrenia are more likely to also suffer from insomnia and circadian rhythm disorder. The medications for schizophrenia may worsen the sleep disorder.

 Attention-Deficit/hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is more common in children than adults. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder in which the attention span is reduced and impulsive behavior  increases. ADHD is common in sleep disorders because the people who suffer from sleep disorders show frequent awakenings, restless leg syndrome, etc. People who have both ADHD and a sleep disorder often have reduced attention span and behavioral problems.

Ways to Improve Sleep Apnea and Mental Health

Better mental health first begins with better sleep. Diagnosis of sleep disorders right away helps doctors focus on improving sleep to reduce the impact of mental health issues. Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea can also be diagnosed at home with a home sleep study test through Sleep Care Online. Here is how it works.

  • Purchase the Complete Care Package from Sleep Care Online
  • Next, fill out a brief health and sleep survey and receive your home sleep apnea test in the mail
  • Then, follow the instructions and wear your WatchPAT One E test device to bed
  • In the morning, end the test to upload your results to the cloud for review by one of our sleep doctors
  • Schedule a 15-minute telehealth visit with the doctor to go over the test and determine the need for CPAP therapy

Order a Home Sleep Test Today!

Start Today

Take control of your mental health by taking control of your sleep. Purchase the Complete Care Package from Sleep Care Online today. Additionally, for more information or to ask any questions, contact our customer care team at 866-465-4478 or email


  1. Harvard Health Publishing. Sleep and mental health. March 2019.
  2. org. Mental Health and Sleep. September 2020
  3. National Library of Medicine. Treating insomnia improves mood state, sleep, and functioning in bipolar disorder: a pilot randomized controlled trial. January 2015. Accessed October 2020.
  4. National Library of Medicine. Autism and sleep disorders. October 2015. Accessed October 2020.


One thought on “Link Between Sleep Apnea And Mental Health

  1. Zachary Tomlinson

    Thanks for elaborating how your mental health could affect your sleep habits and break your routines. I first heard about this in one of the movies I binged last weekend. I’ll probably keep this in mind and find an expert that could make my sleep patterns right when this happens to me.


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