Anxiety: A Clue to Sleep Apnea
Before my sleep apnea was diagnosed, I woke up most days with a physical tightness in my chest. That made me think anxious thoughts and I got depressed because I wasn’t sleeping well and didn’t see an end in sight. It was a vicious cycle that took years to unpick and resolve.
Living with undiagnosed sleep apnea
My doctor treated me for anxiety with anti-depressants. I tried alternative therapies like acupuncture, medical herbalism, massage, and Ayurveda. I journaled, I had therapy, I read self-help books. Nothing made a difference, and I was still waking up with a pounding chest and a sense of impending doom every morning.
Exhaustion and anxiety in my 20s
My 20s were a never-ending cycle of exhaustion, anxiety, and barely holding down a job or keeping it all together. I often reflect now on how differently things would have gone if my doctor had asked questions around my sleep and energy levels and ordered a sleep study much earlier.
On first impression, I was an anxious 20-something in tears and overwhelmed. I know now that this is exactly what sleep apnea often looks like.
Running out of reasons
Looking back, I definitely explained away my anxiety and depression because of what I was going through at the time. I would think to myself, “No wonder I am depressed, my friend just died.” Then, “No wonder I have anxiety, my boss is the worst.”
My anxiety and depression became more of a puzzlement when my life looked up. I found myself married to a wonderful husband and in a job I enjoyed. I ran out of things to say in therapy. We already worked through my childhood, my trauma, my kids and ended up with awkward silences.
Diagnosis and treatment made a difference
Things changed for the better when my sleep apnea was diagnosed in 2008. I had a sleep study and I began treatment with a CPAP. My anxiety did improve with the CPAP. It wasn’t completely gone; anxiety is, after all, a complex condition affecting all aspects of life.
There is no doubt having uninterrupted sleep helped my mental health enormously. I particularly noticed my chest wasn’t pounding upon waking anymore. I no longer felt like I was being chased by a bear.
Appreciating the silver lining
A silver lining to my late diagnosis was the fact that I had already completed a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy course and discussed every bothersome issue in therapy. I had also incorporated regular yoga and meditation into my routine. Now when feelings of anxiety arise, I have a toolkit ready to go to help me navigate the overwhelm.
Pay attention to your symptoms
Anxiety seems to be everywhere these days but it can be a clue that someone is suffering with sleep apnea. It’s my hope that people pay close attention to their symptoms. If anxiety is accompanied by daytime sleepiness, brain fog, snoring, or any of the other common symptoms of sleep apnea, request a sleep study for further investigation.
Did you experience anxiety before you were diagnosed with sleep apnea? Do you still experience insomnia? Register with our site and then share in the comments below.
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