Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, impacting about 40 million adults, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Recent clinical studies and research conducted by Binghamton University and the University of California-Berkeley, along with several additional institutions, have established a connection between sleep deprivation and anxiety disorders. That means that conditions such as sleep apnea may be exasperating your mental illness. Read on to find out what the research says and how to break the vicious cycle between fatigue and anxiety.
The Connection Between Sleep Deprivation and Anxiety
Countless studies have been conducted that have observed the connection between anxiety and sleep deprivation caused by certain disorders. If you wake up feeling constantly fatigued or feel on edge all the time, these could be symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that impacts 22 million Americans, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.
While feeling tired and constantly snoring may seem like minor inconvenient side-effects, they can lead to more serious mental and overall health problems. Constantly disrupted sleep and circadian rhythms have been shown to be a driving force for severe anxiety and brain disorders. With all the research that has been conducted over the past decade, institutions are starting to unravel a vicious cycle.
In a study conducted by Binghamton University in 2018, a Professor of Psychology and former graduate student examined the connection between sleep duration and negative thoughts. The participants were instructed to look at different pictures meant to arouse an emotional response and their eye movements were tracked. Over the course of this study, researchers found that regular sleep disruptions made it more difficult for participants to ignore or shift their attention from negative information and intrusive thoughts.
Another study conducted by neuroscientists at UC Berkeley examined the brains of 18 healthy young adults as they looked at images. The first time, after a good night of rest, and the second, after a sleepless night. None of the participants had clinical anxiety disorders. While examining their brains while sleep-deprived, they found that the responses in the amygdala and insular cortex (the parts of the brain that process emotion) soared. In short, researchers were able to link sleep deprivation to the arousal of anxiety.
Treating the Issue
Sleep deprivation can be affected by a variety of factors, one of those being sleep apnea. For patients experiencing this disorder, their circadian rhythm is regularly disrupted throughout the night, which makes them feel fatigued the next day. In a study conducted by the Society for Neuroscience, professionals found that this effect of sleep apnea can be a driving force behind anxiety and even make other brain disorders worse, including dementia.
Your best defense against sleep deprivation and the impacts it has on your mental and overall health is to get it treated. After you have a sleep study completed and receive an official diagnosis, you can seek help from a sleep dentist or specialist. They’ll develop a custom-tailored treatment plan to help minimize the symptoms caused by your sleeping disorder and improve your quality of rest, so you can enjoy each day without experiencing intense anxiety.
About the Author
Dr. Liza Karamardian has been practicing dentistry for nearly two decades and is passionate about improving her patients’ quality of life by providing them with custom-tailored sleep apnea therapy. She was awarded Best Dentist Los Gatos by the Los Gatos Award program and understands the connection between oral and overall health. Each visit with a patient, she provides them with her undivided attention and listens to their concerns so she can best understand the issues that they’re facing. For questions or to schedule a consultation for sleep apnea therapy, visit Los Gatos Dental Group’s website or call 408-402-0900.