Woman clutching the sheets experiencing a nightmare

We all experience dreams and nightmares from time to time, it's just a natural part of life. However, many people don’t know the adverse impact sleep apnea has on our dreams and nightmares as well. Sleep apnea is a debilitating condition that often comes with many health risks. For starters, doctors often associate sleep apnea with creating higher chances for other health conditions like stroke, hypertension, and diabetes.

Common Categories of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a medical condition that creates difficulty or stops breathing when people are asleep. There are two categories of sleep apnea which include:

1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

OSA occurs when brain signals cannot control the muscles involved in controlling breathing, where something foreign blocks the airway, leading to breathing problems. Typically, the obstruction occurs when throat muscles relax more than expected and close. This outcome is often caused by conditions such as obesity and tonsil issues.

2. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

CSA occurs when brain signals that control the muscles involved in maintaining breathing, fail to work correctly, which leads a patient to put in a considerable amount of effort to breathe normally.

What Causes Sleep Apnea Dreams?

Anyone who has Obstructed Sleep Apnea (OSA) can attest to how problematic it might be to get quality sleep. That’s because the obstructed airway often disrupts sound sleep. As a result, the constant inability to get a good night’s rest prevents the brain from reaching rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, affecting most patients' dreams.

Let’s discuss why we experience dreams and nightmares. Doctors suggest that REM sleep embraces everything from our emotional well-being to long-term memory. In other words, dreams are how your brain interprets all normal activities you experience in your everyday life.

Studies further show a significant difference between the nightmare experience with sleep apnea and those without the condition. Those with sleep apnea generally don’t get to enter deep REM sleep, which causes most of their dreams to become mere fragments.

Can Sleep Apnea Bring About Vivid Dreams?

Vivid dreaming might be a symptom that you have sleep apnea. Vivid dreams usually feel like reality as opposed to ordinary dreams. Often, people cannot tell the difference between a vivid dream and real life. Vivid dreams might also negatively impact untreated sleep apnea. So, anyone with sleep apnea is prone to experience prolonged bouts of lack of REM sleep and often experience intense dreaming after achieving REM sleep.

While some intense dreams are good, others can be classified as harmful. All in all, remember that intense dreams are rare and may indicate underlying causes like stress or lack of quality sleep.

What Are Sleep Apnea Nightmares?

The lack of proper oxygen flow alerts your brain of imminent danger. Severe cases of untreated sleep apnea can cause nightmares. Those struggling with sleep apnea over a long period of time may even experience breathing difficulties while sleeping.

That’s the main reason why many people who struggle with sleep apnea tend to experience nightmares about dying or choking. Some people even experience night terrors accompanied by bouts of anxiety and restlessness that can last for a while after.

You might wake up feeling afraid, tired, and anxious, but what’s odd is that despite how you may be feeling, you might not remember anything about the dream. That said, remember that untreated sleep apnea tends to cause nightmares as the disorder continues, especially if it is left untreated. Similarly, negative emotions can instigate or intensify terrifying sleep apnea nightmares.

Sleep Apnea May Cause Terrifying Dreams

As mentioned earlier, nightmares can often be indicative of untreated sleep apnea. However, sleep apnea isn’t necessarily the leading cause of nightmares. Apart from negative emotions, medications, hormonal issues, and eating late at night can also act as triggers. Some people might experience night terrors due to family and genetic history.

Seek Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Are you plagued by nightmares or bad dreams due to sleep apnea? If so, it’s advisable to visit a doctor to get a proper diagnosis. Sleep apnea treatment will get you to enjoy good REM sleep so that you will never have to experience terrifying nightmares as a result of this condition. We all desire and deserve to enjoy a night of quality sleep without interruptions. If you have any questions or need some advice, get a consultation from the experts at Kanehl Dental today to treat this debilitating condition. We’re happy to help!