Can Sleep Apnea Cause Nightmares?
December 21, 2022
For most people, having a bad dream once in a while is expected. You probably know exactly what it feels like to jerk awake with a fast heartbeat and unpleasant images lingering in your mind. Sadly, some individuals experience this more often than others. Specifically, people with obstructive sleep apnea may be prone to nightmares. Let’s talk about why sleep apnea nightmares in Southlake may occur and what you can do to enjoy more peaceful rest.
Sleep Apnea Nightmares and Oxygen Deprivation
Obstructive sleep apnea, commonly referred to as OSA, is a disorder defined by repeated pauses in breathing (called apneas) during a sleep session. These pauses occur because soft tissues in the throat over-relax and block the free flow of oxygen in the upper airway. Each apnea can last for 10 seconds or longer, and they can occur dozens or even hundreds of times in a single night.
Just like you might have a dream about needing to visit the bathroom when you really do need to urinate, individuals with OSA might have nightmares about suffocation when their body is not getting enough oxygen.
Severe OSA and Nightmares
The connection between OSA and nightmares is only partially understood. There is research to suggest that the severity of a person’s OSA is correlated with the unpleasantness of their dreams. In other words, individuals with severe cases of OSA tend to have the most disturbing nightmares.
However, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that people with severe OSA might not always remember their nightmares. This could be because OSA does not allow its victims to spend an adequate amount of time in REM sleep, which is the sleep stage when most dreams occur.
A Real-Life Nightmare
Another noteworthy aspect of the relationship between OSA and nightmares relates to anxiety. Anxiety is quite common among people with sleep disorders, and it is associated with a heightened frequency of unpleasant dreams. Anxiety nightmares may happen because even while you are asleep, your brain continues to process and compile information. If you had anxious thoughts throughout the day, they could carry over into your sleep.
How to Have Better Dreams
Here are a few suggestions that might help you enjoy better dreams:
- Seek OSA treatment. Something as simple as an oral appliance from a dentist might be all you need to start breathing easier at night.
- Adjust your habits. Cutting back on alcohol and caffeine might lower your risk of nightmares. Improving your diet and exercise routine might help you lose excess weight and thereby reduce your OSA symptoms.
- Care for your mental health. Severe or chronic anxiety is a good reason to visit a qualified mental health professional.
Do you suffer from frequent nightmares? OSA might be to blame. Seeking treatment could help you finally enjoy sweet dreams.
Meet Our Practice
Dr. Preetha Thomas is an experienced holistic dentist in Southlake. She understands OSA and the effects it can have on patients’ overall wellness. If you believe you have a sleep disorder, she and our team would be happy to consult with you and recommend your next steps. Contact us at 817-912-1218.
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