March 27, 2020
America has been hit hard with the COVID-19 outbreak. In an effort to slow the spread of the virus, many states and local governments have issued shelter-in-place orders. The threat of contracting COVID-19, coupled with the inability to carry out normal daily functions, has likely led to heightened stress levels for many Americans. Unfortunately, this can translate into sleep issues. As you continue reading, you’ll learn about the connection and how stress can further amplify any sleep apnea symptoms. Thankfully, you’ll also discover some tips to help you manage these difficult times!
How Stress Can Impact Sleep
It could be said that stress is the natural antithesis of sleep. That’s because sleep is the ultimate form of relaxation. Stress is formally defined as any factor or event that threatens a person’s health or adversely affects his or her normal functioning. Furthermore, it prompts the body to raise its output of such hormones as adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause changes in blood pressure, heart rate and metabolism. These are physiological responses that are often referred to as ‘fight or flight.’
A 2012 report by PubMed shows a correlation between stress (in the forms of anxiety and depression) and sleep disorders, one of the more prevalent ones being sleep apnea.
The Connection Between Stress and Sleep Apnea
The term sleep apnea refers to frequent stoppages in breathing throughout the night. Each break triggers the brain to send an alert signal that interrupts sleep. Once your breathing restarts, you’ll typically fall asleep again, only to go through this cycle over and over, sometimes hundreds of times throughout the night. As a result, you can be left deprived of the normal benefits of receiving adequate sleep.
Any extra stressors simply make the difficulties associated with sleep apnea even worse. Thankfully, there are some ways to reduce your stress levels:
- Meditate – This simply involves being still and quiet. There are no special techniques required.
- Seek Counseling – If your anxiety or stress starts to become chronic and unmanageable, it’s a great idea to speak to a counselor.
- Start a New Exercise Regimen – The benefits of exercising on a regular basis are numerous. For starters, it contributes to the output of healthy hormones like endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin and others, that have relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties that also help you rest better at night.
- Take a Relaxing Bath Before Bed – Taking a calm and soothing bath is a way to encourage your mind and body to relax before bed. To further boost the benefits, you can add the essential oil, lavender, which helps to naturally stimulate your melatonin output, which is the nighttime hormone.
- Power-off Your Electronic Devices – At least 30 minutes before you retire for bed, you should discontinue the usage of any electronic devices. This will help you unwind and prepare to release the stresses of the day as you drift to sleep.
Seeking Treatment for Sleep Apnea
With the COVID-19 outbreak still peeking, most sleep dentists aren’t currently treating sleep apnea. However, as soon as the threat eases across the country and you’ve been properly diagnosed with sleep apnea, your local dentist will be able to provide the specialized treatment you need. Until then, you can apply what you’ve learned so you can better manage your stress levels and get the best rest possible.
About the Author
Dr. David B. Schwartz earned his dental degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry. One of the nation’s foremost experts in dental sleep, he is a Diplomate of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. Dr. Schwartz puts his vast knowledge and years of experience to good use by helping patients recover from sleep apnea at Sleep Better Chicagoland, and he can be reached for more information through his website.
No comments yet.
RSS feed for comments on this post.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.