What Are the Effects Sleep Apnea Has on Mental Health?

What Are the Effects Sleep Apnea Has on Mental Health?

If you’ve ever had a bad night’s sleep, you probably remember how fatigued and groggy you felt the next day. No matter what you did or how much coffee you drank, there was little you could do to feel alert and rested. 

Those suffering from obstructive sleep apnea experience this lethargy day in and day out, which takes its toll on their psychological state and mental health. Not only does sleep deprivation lead to mental health concerns, but individuals with mental health problems are more likely to experience sleep disorders.

In recent years, clinicians and researchers have changed the way they view sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Previously, sleep disorders were viewed as symptoms of mental health problems. However, new studies have demonstrated that sleep deprivation and sleep disorders can increase the patient’s risk for developing psychiatric disorders. To better understand the effects that sleep apnea has on mental health, ApneaMed has put together a breakdown of its impact on personality, behavior, and psychological state.

Sleep Apnea Effects on Personality 

Your personality is a complex multidimensional system that dictates how you interact with others and act in various situations and environments. While personalities are unique to each individual, recent studies have found a correlation between personality traits in patients diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. These common personality traits include:

  • Inactivity
  • Lack of energy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Pessimism
  • Guilt
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness

Along with these personality traits, individuals with obstructive sleep apnea were found to experience hypochondriasis and psychopathic deviance. Because their sleep disorder causes them to experience disruptions in their sleep throughout the night, they’re unable to reach a night of deep sleep. This causes them to have mood swings and feel fatigued, which takes its toll on their personality and interactions with others.

Sleep Apnea Behavior Problems in Adults

Adults with obstructive sleep apnea often exhibit behavioral problems similar to that of individuals diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD. Those with ADHD often have a hard time focusing their attention, make impulsive decisions, and demonstrate hyperactivity. As a result of these behaviors, the patient may have low self-esteem, have difficulty forming relationships, and have trouble focusing at work.

Treating your ADHD-induced sleep problems with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy will allow you to sleep more soundly, which in turn will reduce some of the behavioral issues you may be experiencing. 

Psychological Effects of Sleep Deprivation

To function throughout the day properly, most individuals need to get a minimum of eight hours of sleep. When suffering from sleep apnea, the individual feels unrested, even after getting a full night’s sleep. If the sleep apnea is left untreated, the patient may begin to have hallucinations and see or hear things that aren’t there. Along with hallucinations, sleep deprivation can result in a variety of psychological problems, including:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • PTSD
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Impulsive behaviors

To better understand the psychological effects of sleep deprivation, let’s take a closer look at a few of the risks mentioned above.


Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand. When you’re dealing with stress — whether in your personal or professional life — you may find it more challenging to shut off your mind at night to get a good night’s sleep. While stress can make it more difficult for you to sleep, sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea can also make you more irritable and have difficulty coping with the stressors that pop up in your day-to-day life.

When you aren’t getting enough sleep, minor nuisances may become significant sources of frustration that leave you more irritable than you started. As a result of the added stress, you may find yourself snapping at friends, family, and colleagues. Getting a proper amount of sleep at night will help you to cope better with stressful situations in your life.


We know that not getting enough quality sleep can affect your mood, making you more irritable and cranky. But over time, untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to more than just mood swings — it can lead to mood disorders such as depression and major depressive disorder. This condition can be brought on or heightened by sleep apnea because of the individual’s inability to get a good night’s sleep.

Depression can make it difficult for an individual to go about their daily life. The longer you continue to sleep poorly, the more significant your sleep apnea will have on your depression. Treating your sleep disorder will not only reduce the symptoms of your depression but lower the chance of depression altogether.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder, also referred to as SAD, is a form of depression during times when there is less sunlight. The darkness becomes overbearing and disrupts the individual’s internal biological clock. As a result, the patient often experiences issues with their sleeping habits — sometimes finding themselves sleeping too much or not enough. These imbalances in their sleep cycles and the inability to get a good night’s rest leave them feeling depressed during the darkest days of the year.


If you tend to be an anxious person, you know firsthand that anxiety can cause sleep deprivation — add in diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea, and you have a recipe for disaster. When you face insomnia and sleep disturbances from sleep apnea, you are at a greater risk of experiencing feelings of anxiety. 

If left untreated, your sleep problems can develop into more extensive anxiety conditions that make it much more challenging to face your daily life. Treating your sleep disorder with the proper breathing equipment can help promote a more consistent sleep cycle, allowing you to receive a whole night’s sleep each night. With ample rest, you’ll feel less anxious as you go about your day and will be able to fall asleep without anxious thoughts keeping you awake all night.

Bipolar Disorder

Individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder experience extreme mood swings ranging from highs (mania) to lows (depression). These volatile mood swings directly impact the individual’s sleep patterns depending on what mental state they find themselves in. 

When in a state of mania, it isn’t uncommon for the patient to feel so energized that they get minimal, if any, sleep. Depending on how long they are in this state can drastically impact their mental health due to severe sleep deprivation. When they’re depressed, they may spend too much time asleep, disrupting their body’s regular sleep cycles.

Because sleep patterns play a significant role in the bipolar individual’s moods, treating the sleep disorder can help balance their mood and make the swings between depression and mania less extreme. Utilizing breathing equipment for sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea can provide the necessary support for the individual to get a full night’s sleep.

How Does Sleep Apnea Impact Mental Health

We’re all well aware that obstructive sleep apnea can increase a patient’s risk of various health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and more. Recently, researchers have found that sleep apnea impacts the individual’s physical health and mental health as well. The repeated cessations in breathing and ongoing sleep deprivation take their toll on the person’s brain and can lead to personality changes, behavior changes, stress disorders, memory loss, and similar complications.

Those suffering from mental health disorders will have a more difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep during the night. Similarly, sleep deprivation or poor sleep can also contribute to mental health problems. It’s a devastating circle of events that, when left untreated, can make it extremely difficult for the individual to function normally during the day. Although sleep troubles and mental health issues can be affected by many factors, there is seemingly a link between the two. As a result, many clinicians believe that improving the individual’s quality of sleep can positively impact the state of their mental health.

Untreated sleep apnea can wreak havoc on your mental health. To ensure you’re putting your best self forward every day, you need to get a good night’s sleep — to do that, you need proper breathing equipment that will allow you to sleep easier. 

Get Your CPAP Equipment from ApneaMed

The most common form of sleep apnea treatment is AutoPAP therapy. An AutoPAP machine offers both a continuous mode (otherwise known as CPAP) and an auto-adjusting mode, allowing you to determine which feels best for you. The auto-adjusting mode ensures you receive the ideal air pressure throughout the entire night, no matter the sleep stage or position you’re sleeping in. 

ApneaMed offers various home sleep tests and in-home breathing equipment to help you treat obstructive sleep apnea and reduce the risk of mental health problems, including fatigue, lethargy, depression, stress, paranoia, and more. Contact our team to learn more.

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