Can Sleep Apnea Cause Anxiety and Panic Attacks?

Yes, sleep apnea can cause anxiety and panic attacks.

Anxiety and panic attacks can be incredibly debilitating. But did you know that they could be a symptom of sleep apnea? Many people don’t realize the connection between the two, where one can possibly lead to the other.

Surprisingly, sleep apnea not only has physical repercussions, but also mental ones. Within this article we will explore how obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can cause anxiety and panic attacks, as well as tips on how to address it effectively.

What is obstructive sleep apnea, anxiety, and panic attacks?

Sleep apnea is a serious health condition that affects millions of Americans. It’s marked by episodes when you momentarily stop breathing during sleep, and can be caused by the brain not sending signals correctly or a physical blockage in your airway. If left untreated, this could lead to potentially fatal consequences like heart attacks or dangerous accidents. Thankfully, there are long-term solutions available such as sleeping with a specialized mask or surgery to clear blockages in the throat.

Anxiety disorders on the other hand are characterized by excessive worrying, fear, and stress during everyday situations. Everyone experiences these emotions from time to time but these become issues when it starts affecting our lives significantly and we can no longer go through day to day activities normally. There are treatments available such as medications and therapy that can help people manage their anxiety and live more fulfilling lives.

Panic attacks can have a distressing and debilitating effect. They are generally accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, trembling, sweating and dizziness as well as psychological symptoms such as a sense of dread, feeling disconnected from reality and fear of losing control. Poor sleep patterns such as sleep apnea can be a contributing factor due to the fact that a lack of sleep can cause increased feelings of anxiety and fatigue. This tiredness in turn can lead to biochemical reactions which exacerbate feelings of stress and nervousness. Furthermore, tension and stress can trigger reactions in the nervous system which results in shallow breathing leading to a buildup of excess carbon dioxide in the body which could potentially cause further panic attacks.

Can sleep apnea cause anxiety and panic attacks?

Yes, sleep apnea can cause anxiety and panic attacks. This is because the lack of oxygen caused by pauses in breathing can lead to a feeling of suffocation which can trigger an intense fear response in the brain. This can result in chronic stress and disruption of regular sleeping patterns, both of which are known triggers for anxiety and panic attacks. Furthermore, studies have found that adults who suffer from sleep apnea experience higher levels of psychological distress than those without the condition. This includes higher levels of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It is important to note that not everyone with sleep apnea will experience anxiety or panic attacks, but if you do suffer from these symptoms then it may be worth considering the possibility of sleep apnea as a contributing factor.

How does sleep deprivation cause anxiety?

Lack of sleep can have serious impacts on the brain and mental state. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can lead to increased activity in the areas of the brain responsible for emotional processing, resulting in more anxious feelings and worsening symptoms of anxiety disorders. People who are naturally more prone to anxiety, such as those with panic disorder, are particularly vulnerable to not getting enough sleep as it increases their sense of fear and worry. Chronic worriers need adequate sleep in order to regulate their emotions and prevent anxiety from spiraling out of control.

Moreover, studies suggest that inadequate or interrupted sleep may also make it harder for the body to maintain its natural equilibrium by disrupting metabolic hormones like insulin, glucose, and cortisol levels. These fluctuations can further impact our moods and stress level. Although there is much research still needed to better understand how this relationship works, many experts agree that a good night’s rest is an essential part of any treatment plan for reducing anxiety symptoms or preventing them from getting worse. There is no one-size-fits cure for anxiety but maintaining healthy sleep habits is a great place to start if you want to manage your anxiety levels effectively.

Can anxiety cause sleep apnea?

Many people often wonder if anxiety contributes to obstructive sleep apnea. The answer is not a straightforward yes or no, as there are varying contributing factors to the development of obstructive sleep apnea. Firstly, it is important to understand that there are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea and usually occurs due to physical muscle relaxation in the throat or palate area.

Studies examining if anxiety contributes to OSA have been inconclusive at best. It appears that anxiety may play a role in the frequency of OSA in various populations. A study conducted in 2015 looked at 298 patients with OSA and found that anxiety was higher than the general population. Furthermore, it is more likely that OSA patients have anxiety and depression. While this study does not show a specific cause-and-effect relationship between anxiety and OSA, it does suggest there may be correlations worth exploring further in depth. Though, we do know OSA definitely can cause anxiety and panic attacks.

Why are sleep apnea and anxiety linked?

As you can probably gather from reading above, it is no surprise then that these conditions often appear at the same time as each can significantly affect the other. Studies have found that people who find it difficult to get enough comfortable rest due to their sleep apnea are more likely to suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety disorder. The lack of rest impairs cognitive ability and can make pre-existing anxiety issues worse; leaving individuals feeling drained, low on energy and struggling to cope with even simple tasks during the day. In addition, Anxiety can be associated with difficulty sleeping so it is possible for this condition to worsen existing sleep problems too – creating a vicious cycle that can eventually become dangerous if left untreated.

How to treat sleep apnea related anxiety and panic attacks?

The first step towards addressing sleep apnea related anxiety and panic attacks is to get a proper diagnosis from a medical professional. This will help you understand what exactly is causing your symptoms and how best to treat them. Once diagnosed, there are several treatments available such as lifestyle changes, medications, and surgical procedures that can help manage both sleep apnea and anxiety disorders.

  • Lifestyle changes – it is important to maintain healthy sleeping habits by avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening, limiting screen time before bedtime, and practicing relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation. Diet also plays an important role in managing these conditions – make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your meals. It is crucial to address underlying issues before resorting to drastic measures such as medications or surgery when it comes to anxiety and panic attack management.
  • Medications – can also be used to treat sleep apnea related anxiety and panic attacks if lifestyle changes do not work. These include benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, and beta blockers. It is important to consult a medical professional before taking any medications as some may interact with existing conditions or medications you are taking.
  • Surgical procedures – may be used as a last resort if lifestyle changes and medications do not provide enough relief from the symptoms of sleep apnea and anxiety. These procedures involve removing blockages in the airway that are causing pauses in breathing or correcting anatomical issues that could be contributing to the condition.


In conclusion, sleep apnea can cause anxiety and panic attacks due to the lack of oxygen and chronic sleep disruption associated with the condition. It is important to get a proper diagnosis from a medical professional in order to identify the best treatment for your specific situation. Treatment options include lifestyle changes, medications, and surgical procedures, all of which can help manage both sleep apnea and anxiety disorders.

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