How does sleep apnea affect mental health

Lack of sleep affects the psyche

Sleep disorders can have a strong influence on the psyche and promote mental illness. An early medical evaluation is therefore advisable. The most common reasons for insomnia.

Many mental illnesses lead to insomnia. Sleep problems are particularly common symptoms of depression, anxiety disorders and psychoses. The experts of the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology (DGPPN) point out that the opposite connection is also possible: Sleep disorders can not only be the result of a mental illness, but also its cause. In order to prevent psychological complaints as a result of lack of sleep, the experts recommend that persistent sleep disorders be clarified by a doctor at an early stage.

Example sleep apnea syndrome

“A disease that is often not recognized for a long time and that can have a significant impact on mental health is obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. This leads to respiratory arrests during sleep. The result is insufficient oxygen supply during the night and, at the same time, repeated, short wake-up reactions that those affected often do not notice, ”reports Prof. Thomas Pollmächer from the DGPPN. “The symptoms of sleep apnea syndrome are tiredness, but also changes in mood, drive and concentration, which can correspond to a degree of depression. It is therefore fundamentally very important to also consider the possibility of a sleep disorder when diagnosing and treating a mental illness. "

Common causes of insomnia

A healthy, restful sleep is not only dependent on the amount of sleep, but also, in particular, on the quality of sleep. It decreases with the number of wake-up reactions during sleep, which interrupts the respective sleep phases. "A worsening of sleep can also be the result of taking or stopping a variety of medications, such as beta blockers, which are used to treat high blood pressure or heart disease," explains Prof. Pollmächer.
Other disruptive factors that can impair sleeping are a stomach that is too full or too empty, physically stimulating activities before going to bed, as well as caffeine or nicotine consumption. “It is not uncommon for alcohol consumption or alcohol abuse to be responsible for sleep disorders. Even a moderate consumption of alcohol before going to sleep can lead to a shortened sleep time and a deterioration in the quality of sleep. "

Have persistent sleep disorders clarified

"Sleep disorders that last longer than 3 to 4 weeks require a detailed clarification of the causes, which can be in the area of ​​mental as well as physical health", adds Prof. Thomas Pollmächer. The first point of contact should initially be the family doctor. He can rule out physical illnesses such as thyroid disorders or find evidence of organic sleep disorders. Because psychological problems and sleep disorders are mutually dependent, it is of great importance for treatment to find the trigger of the causal chain and to treat it.

Relaxation procedures and sufficient physical activity during the day have a positive effect on falling asleep. Good sleep hygiene is also important in order to find well-being and peace in bed. Fresh and cool air should prevail in the bedroom; a room temperature of 14 ° to 18 ° C is recommended.


11/13/2015 | Sandra Göbel / DGPPN