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What do insomnia and sleep apnea have in common?

Insomnia and sleep apnea are two of the most common sleep-related disorders people face around the world. Symptoms and signs of sleep apnea often merge with those of insomnia, making it hard for people to understand the illness. On top of this, these conditions may coexist as well. These factors make it difficult to adequately diagnose and treat sleep apnea and insomnia.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea is a sleeping disorder in which the patient experiences lapses in their breathing while they sleep, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety, night terrors, snoring, partially or completely obstructed airways, and exhaustion when they wake up. These symptoms present themselves due to the patient’s airways being partially or completely obstructed while they sleep, preventing oxygen from reaching their body and brain.

Related: Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia, like sleep apnea, is a common sleep disorder that can make falling asleep and the process of staying asleep during the night difficult. Patients suffering from insomnia report difficulty falling asleep despite efforts and extreme difficulty in staying asleep.

Patients report waking up in the middle of the night, sometimes hours before the 7 to 9-hour mark, and then not being able to fall back asleep. The most common symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, night terrors, anxiety, and being tired the following day.

At some point, many adults will have experienced short-term insomnia. This is fairly standard, and it lasts anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. It is typically associated with some traumatic event, such as the passing of a loved one, but can also be the result of anxiety-inducing events such as upcoming exams or interviews.

Some people develop long-term insomnia that can last anywhere from a month to multiple years. This is a very serious condition and can be debilitating. In such cases, insomnia may be the primary problem, but it is likely that it exists as a byproduct of an already existing condition. One of these conditions is sleep apnea.

Related: The Differences Between Sleep Apnea And Insomnia

What is the Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Insomnia?

While sleep apnea and insomnia are two distinct medical issues with different underlying causes and treatments, they do seem to exhibit some very similar symptoms.

Research has shown that almost 60% of patients who are initially diagnosed with only one condition may get diagnosed with both. This suggests that there is some underlying relationship between these two disorders.

Let’s dive into it. Both these disorders are rooted in sleep disturbances during the night and fatigue during the day. Sleep apnea can also cause sleep difficulty due to the body’s inability to breathe at times during the night or due to the loud and uncomfortable nature of the PAP machines used to treat sleep apnea. As sleep apnea can cause a person to not be able to sleep, it is possible that sleep apnea acts as one of the causes of insomnia.

Sleep apnea
Anxiety about waking up from lapses in breathing can lead to difficulty sleeping and a lower quality of sleep in general.

This, compounded with an inadequate supply of oxygen, can lead to people waking up mid-sleep. Both of these situations are caused by sleep apnea; however, they are also identical to the symptoms of insomnia. This can be explained by the brain enacting its defense mechanism.

The brain senses that sleep apneas are dangerous and occur when the patient goes to sleep. Thus, in order to prevent the patient from experiencing dangerous lapses in breathing due to sleep apnea, the brain prevents the patient from falling asleep and wakes them up when their breathing becomes labored. It does this by staying in a state of panic where the person remains anxious about going to sleep, and the body’s fight or flight response remains active. In short, the brain processes the life-threatening nature of sleep apnea and tries its best to prevent it by avoiding sleep altogether.

Thus, it is possible that sleep apnea and insomnia act as triggers for one another. The symptoms of one disorder can trigger another. It is also reported that insomniacs are sometimes found to have undiagnosed sleep apnea and are misdiagnosed with insomnia, despite sleep apnea being the primary reason why they developed insomnia in the first place.

Related: Warning Signs Of Sleep Apnea

What Can You Do?

Understanding how similar sleep apnea and insomnia can be very important. It is even more important considering the connection between the diseases and how they coexist so often. For conditions where they coexist, the patient should be treated for both diseases.

The doctors treating both diseases should keep each other informed as one treatment option can affect the effectiveness of the other. For example, PAP machines are used to treat sleep apnea, but they are loud and uncomfortable and can cause the patient to not be able to fall asleep.

This is why a supervising specialist’s help is required for dealing with these types of situations so that they can directly help the patient whilst overviewing the treatment for both disorders.
That is why SleepRx is the perfect place to get help. SleepRx is filled with resources such as sleep specialists, home sleep study kits, sleep apnea kits, and a host of information on insomnia. The specialists at SleepRx can help supervise your treatment for the best results possible. Head over to SleepRx, and get the best treatment that is currently offered.


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