Achieving Quality Sleep is Essential for Mental Wellness
We’re all familiar with the idea that getting enough sleep is crucial to waking up rested and refreshed. Unfortunately, we too often fail to recognize the importance of sleep quality in rejuvenating our minds and bodies for maximum performance throughout the day.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common barrier to achieving deep slumber, as it diminishes the flow of oxygen and interrupts the state of REM sleep. By interfering with these key components of quality sleep, sleep apnea can diminish mental wellbeing and negatively impact countless aspects of day-to-day life.
Our Need for REM Sleep
If you’ve ever woken up feeling unusually tired or depleted after a night of troubled or interrupted sleep, you likely know how it feels to get insufficient REM sleep. Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, sleep is a unique phase of deep sleep that is recognized for high brain activity and the experience of dreams. However, the health implications of this sleep phase go beyond what we consciously feel or remember.
Over the course of a night’s sleep, a healthy brain goes through multiple cycles of shallow non-REM sleep and deep REM sleep. During cycles of REM sleep, the body is hard at work repairing neural connections, replacing brain cells, and clearing the buildup of metabolic byproducts. This process is essential to prepare your mind for a new day of mental activity and protect against long-term health complications.
By forcing you to fight for breath and remain in a shallow state of sleep, sleep apnea interferes with the body’s most crucial natural opportunity to heal and protect the brain. Professional intervention to identify and treat sleep apnea is the best way to prevent and even reverse negative outcomes.
How does sleep apnea impact your mental health and performance?
Even a single night of insufficient REM sleep can have an impact on our mental well-being. Irritability, low energy, and a lack of focus are familiar sensations to anyone who has struggled through a night of interrupted or incomplete rest. While those suffering from sleep apnea may not fully awaken from episodes of obstructed breathing, these events are enough to interrupt REM phases or prevent the body from cycling past non-REM sleep.
Failing to ensure the sustained deep sleep our brains require, an otherwise healthy individual will experience decreased mental performance and increased levels of stress. Over time, inadequate REM sleep can often produce symptoms of more serious mental conditions like anxiety, depression, and chronic fatigue.
For individuals who already struggle with these or other mental health issues, loss of REM sleep can worsen and complicate outcomes. Some sleep apnea sufferers may not recognize an impact on their regular mental wellness, but could be hastening the onset of late-in-life conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s by putting off treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can treating my sleep apnea heal or prevent mental illness?
Treatment for sleep apnea is not a replacement for therapy and psychological care. However, sleep apnea treatment can alleviate difficulties with achieving uninterrupted REM sleep and stimulate its naturally restorative benefits to the brain. This promotes healthy mental function and may lessen the experience of mood disorders, as well as symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and stress.
Furthermore, a healthy REM cycle has been linked to the flushing of waste proteins in the brain, potentially reducing your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
How much REM sleep do I need on a nightly basis?
A healthy night’s sleep should typically include about two hours of REM phase sleep. Because sleep phases occur in cycles, only about 25 percent of your time sleeping through a night is actually spent in the REM state. For this reason, eight hours of sleep is the recommended average for optimal benefits.
Sleep apnea interferes with the process of sleep cycles, forcing the body to remain in a shallow state of sleep to regulate oxygen intake. Even when a person suffering from sleep apnea can get an adequate total amount of sleep, the reduced quality of their rest impedes the most important healing processes.
What else can I do to promote REM sleep?
- It’s beneficial to maintain as regular a sleep schedule as possible and adopt practices of good sleep hygiene. Simple measures like reducing screen time before bed and getting sunlight and exercise during the day can gently encourage the body to take full advantage of time designated for sleep.
- Despite its sedative properties, alcohol can disrupt the sleep cycle. Quality of sleep may benefit from limiting or eliminating the consumption of alcoholic beverages, especially in the hours directly before bedtime.
- In the same vein, reliance on certain sleep medications may help in achieving sleep but reduce sleep quality. This applies especially to over-the-counter sleeping aids taken without the advice of a doctor.
- Most importantly, if quality of sleep is a persistent issue, seek the help of a professional.
Dr. Lawrence is experienced in treating sleep apnea. He can refer you to a sleep specialist to diagnose your condition through a sleep study, either at a center or with our convenient home sleep test. With a clear diagnosis of sleep apnea, Dr. Lawrence can help you find the right treatment solution so you can get the full sleep you need for your mental and overall health.
Protect the Lifelong Health of your Brain with Sleep Apnea Treatment
You don’t need to let sleep apnea compromise your mental health and performance. Protect against the full spectrum of risks from sleep apnea by getting the treatment you need. The experts at SleepRight McKinney provide customized oral appliances to ensure an open airway for rejuvenating slumber, without compromising your comfort. Contact Dr. Lawrence today at (972) 542-9129 to schedule a no-risk consultation and reclaim a healthy night’s sleep.