We all carry a lot of stress on our shoulders, especially anxiety toward things. No matter what the cause is, stress is always a constant, everyday factor. Some of us cope well, while others have difficulty finding ways to overcome anxiety and stress. If our patients find that they are constantly tired throughout the day, it is important they get tested and treated for sleep apnea. Let’s take a closer look at how sleep apnea and anxiety might go hand-in-hand in your patients.
What is the connection between sleep apnea and anxiety?
Sleep apnea affects people while they’re sleeping, which can be particularly jarring. Some people have to wear special masks connected to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines to ensure that they breathe normally throughout the night and that threat of breathing problems can cause severe anxiety. In turn, this anxiety may make sleep problems worse and sleep deprivation will continue to contribute to both depression and anxiety.
For people already under tons of stress, they’re missing out on restorative sleep that slows the aging process and improves cognitive function—this just compounds the stress faced during the day. A huge source of anxiety during the day is actually from a feeling of breathlessness they experience at night. If a person suffers from sleep apnea, they are panicked all night long as they gasp for air—unconscious and unaware the entire time, but still paying the emotional price in the form of anxiety during the day.
What are the treatment options?
People, who suffer from both sleep apnea and anxiety, or one or the other, should seek proper treatment for both conditions. Delaying diagnosis and treatment can pose more issues for patients. The good news is that some treatment options actually offer hand-in-hand benefits. In those instances, one solution has a direct impact on the other disorder too.
However, it is important to note that treatments available do not follow a one-size-fits-all approach. As a dentist, it is important that you understand the nature of your patient’s disorder better to be able to design an appropriate treatment plan that meets their individual needs.
As you may already know, the available treatment options include:
- A comprehensive sleep study. This will allow the physician to monitor the patient’s sleep rate, heart rate, eye movement, airflow, muscle activity, blood oxygen levels, and other functions overnight. Doing this will help diagnose sleep apnea and other problems.
- CPAP therapy. This is often the most commonly prescribed treatment for sleep apnea. However, patients with anxiety find it difficult to wear a CPAP mask.
- Oral appliance therapy. If patients cannot handle CPAP masks, this is an ideal alternative. Oral appliance therapy helps to control the position of the tongue and the lower jaw to reduce obstructions in the airway and boost the flow of air to the lungs. As an experienced dental sleep medicine specialist, you can provide proper care for your patients.
Encourage your patients to share their thoughts and feelings when it comes to sleep apnea. If they are also experiencing anxiety, it is also important to partner with their physician to provide the best care possible for sleep apnea and anxiety, especially during these trying times. Early treatments for both anxiety and sleep apnea are vital to maintaining good mental health and physical health in our patients.
To get ahead of stress, it is important to wake up feeling positive and optimistic in order to handle the next day’s events. If your patients are feeling any symptoms of anxiety or are waking up exhausted, it is important that they call or visit your dental office to take the next steps toward diagnosis and proper treatment planning.
We host CE courses on Medical Billing for Dentists and clinical treatment of sleep apnea disorders and Dental Sleep Medicine. For more information, contact Nierman Practice Management at 1-800-879-6468 or by visiting niermanpm.com.
Author: Dr. Mayoor Patel, DDS, MS