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Mental Health and Sleep: Six Steps to Overcome Sleep Apnea

It is well known that bad sleep can harm your mental health – after a restless night of sleep, we often feel emotional and irritable. But, have you ever considered that your mental health may also be impacting your sleep quality? In this way, it’s helpful to view the relationship between sleep and mental health like a marriage: sleep impacts mental health through functions like cell and tissue repair and hormone release, while mental health impacts sleep through insomnia and your sleep cycle. In fact, almost every mental health disorder impacts your quality of sleep, including ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety

woman sleeping in bed

In particular, Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder caused by breathing that repeatedly stops and starts. Sleep Apnea, therefore, leads to a decline in sleep quality, and as result, your mental health as well. If you have a mental health disorder, it is likely that you may have sleep apnea as well, as 46% of people with sleep apnea have some form of depression and 57% of ppl with SA have some form of anxiety!

In the case you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you may be curious about what should you do? Here are 6 steps that you should take to improve your sleep quality and mental health:

1. Find a treatment that works for you.

woman-wearing-anti-snoring-chin-straps

Nine times out of ten, you’ll be placed on a CPAP system, which delivers oxygen through a mask to your nose and mouth. However, the CPAP system can be very uncomfortable for the first few weeks and may take some time to get used to. If you find that the CPAP system is hard to become accustomed to, you should seek alternative treatment options that may be more appropriate with and consult your doctor. (NOTE: The Philips CPAP system was recalled as it was linked to cancer).

woman son bed

A popular alternative treatment is a Mandibular Oral Device, which is a retainer-like device that pulls your jaw slightly forward to allow for more oxygen to flow. Compared to the CPAP system, the Mandibular Oral Device can be much easier to get used to than CPAP, leading to a shorter adjustment period and more immediate improvements in sleep quality.

Another popular alternative treatment is Positional Therapy, which is specific to those with positional sleep apnea (sleep apnea that only occurs in specific sleeping positions). Positional Therapy solutions like wedges and pillows are cost efficient and easy to acquire, as prescriptions are usually not required for them. 

2. Fix your sleep hygiene.

caffeine

Some habits that may be affecting your sleep include: irregular sleep schedule, caffeine consumption within 6 hours of bedtime, and electronic screen time within an hour of bedtime. To improve your sleep hygiene, make sure to get plenty of natural sunlight during the first half of the day to align your circadian rhythms and maintain a comfortable, calm, cool bedroom environment. Further, your time in bed is different from the time you actually spent sleeping. Make sure you are spending enough time in bed for the recommended 7+ hours of sleep.

3. Stress management.

woman doing yoga

Managing stress is very important for ensuring you get enough quality sleep. It is important to bring your anxiety levels down and take your brain out of the flight-or-fight mode by blocking out free time in your schedule, meditating, and exercising. 

4. Focus on improving your health.

missing puzzle piece

Sleep Apnea is just one part of the bigger puzzle that makes up your body’s overall health. An unhealthy body leads to an unhealthy mind and bad sleep quality, so make sure to watch your diet, exercise, and other pre-existing medical conditions.

5. Gather a support system.

Family

As you overcome sleep apnea, it is important to keep family and friends around who understand your situation. If you find it hard to do so, there are mental health professionals, online support groups, and video chat groups where you can connect with other people who might better understand and relate to what you are going through. 

6. Seek professional help.

doctor

Finally, if you are really struggling with sleep apnea and/or mental health, it is a good idea to talk to a mental health professional who can point you to a cognitive therapist who can give you clinically validated advice. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help, and doing so can help you get on the therapy or medicinal support you may need. 

 

These tips hopefully will guide you on your journey to better sleep and mental health. Be sure to consult your doctor about any further questions you may have and best of luck.

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