Everyone has a bad dream once in a while. Most people know exactly what it feels like to wake up suddenly with a rapid heartbeat and disturbing images lingering in their mind. Unfortunately, some groups are more prone to suffer from nightmares than others, including individuals with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Let’s talk about why sleep apnea nightmares in Fort Worth happen and what you may be able to do to start enjoying better dreams and more restful shuteye.
Sleep Apnea Nightmares and Suffocation
OSA is a sleep disorder marked by repeated pauses in breathing throughout the night, which are caused by soft tissues in the throat disrupting the free flow of air. Each episode of not breathing (called an apnea) may last for 10 seconds or longer. Apneas may occur dozens or even hundreds of times each night in people with severe OSA.
Just like you might have a dream about needing to pee when you really do have to make a trip to the bathroom, individuals with OSA might have nightmares about suffocation when they are not able to breathe properly.
Severe OSA and Nightmares
The relationship between sleep apnea and nightmares is not fully understood. There is research to indicate that the more severe a person’s OSA is, the more unpleasant their dreams become. However, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine noted that people with severe OSA may not recall their nightmares. This might be because OSA does not allow its victims to spend much time in REM sleep, which is when most dreams occur.
A Real-Life Nightmare
Another aspect of the OSA-nightmare relationship that is worth mentioning stems from OSA’s correlation with anxiety. Anxiety is quite common in people with sleep disorders, and it is associated with an increase in the frequency of unpleasant dreams. Anxiety nightmares may occur because while you sleep, your brain is still busy processing and compiling information. If your thoughts throughout the day were anxious, that can carry over into sleep.
How to Have Better Dreams
Here are a few tips to get you started on your journey toward better dreams:
- Seek OSA treatment if necessary. An oral appliance from a dental sleep medicine expert is a simple device that keeps your airway open while you sleep, decreasing or even eliminating apneas altogether.
- Adjust your habits. Consuming less caffeine and alcohol might decrease your risk of experiencing nightmares. Losing excess weight and sleeping on your side have the potential to lessen OSA symptoms.
- Care for your mental health. If you struggle with chronic or severe anxiety, you may need assistance from a mental health professional.
If you frequently have nightmares, you might also have OSA. Seeking treatment could be the key to enjoying sweeter dreams and higher-quality sleep.
Meet Our Practice
Dr. Mitch Conditt is a dentist with decades of experience. In recent years, he has focused primarily on helping patients overcome OSA with the help of oral appliance therapy. As an OSA sufferer himself, he knows that the disorder can be a real-life nightmare and has great empathy for his patients. To learn more about him and how our team may be able to help you enjoy higher-quality sleep, contact us at 817-527-8500.