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Untreated Sleep Apnea Could Affect Your Personality

By Kyle Kirkland
Untreated sleep apnea can impact more than just your daytime energy levels. The condition can also affect your personality and your interactions with others.

A constant feeling of fatigue can occur when you have sleep apnea and don’t get enough quality sleep. But can the effects of sleep apnea also impact your personal traits and interactions? In addition to causing excessive tiredness and decreased productivity, untreated sleep apnea can negatively affect your personality. Here’s what the experts have to say about sleep apnea and your temperament.

Sleep apnea is associated with increased anxiety. 

A lack of sleep can affect many areas of your life, like your mental well-being. 

“Sleep apnea can increase chances of anxiety,” Olufunke Afolabi-Brown, MD, MBBS, and physician at the Division of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Studies have shown that sleep apnea and anxiety co-occur in a significant number of patients, and researchers have reason to believe that the two conditions can cause one another.

”Sleep apnea can also contribute to anxiety as people with this condition have to wear cumbersome CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines and live with the fear that they might have a breathing problem during the night,” Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University in New York City, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“For these folks, putting their lives in the hands of a machine each night can be a difficult task to bear and can further contribute to sleeplessness and constant panic which extends to waking hours,” Romanoff says. 

Sleep apnea can impact your executive functioning and memory. 

“Difficulty concentrating with impaired vigilance, memory, and executive function can also be a result of sleep apnea,” Afolabi-Brown says.

According to a 2018 editorial article published by Frontiers in Psychology, "executive function" is an umbrella term used to delineate multiple cognitive functions that are foundational to goal-directed behavior, thoughts, and emotions. Executive function is critically important in new or challenging situations that place demands on your ability to quickly and adaptably adjust your behavior according to your environment. 

Additionally, when your sleep is interrupted, your brain does not get the oxygen it needs. With untreated sleep apnea, this lack of oxygen combined with a lack of sleepcan lead to problems with concentration and your ability to remember things. And this can undoubtedly affect your productivity and mood throughout the day. 

Sleep apnea can affect partner intimacy. 

Sleep apnea doesn’t just affect the person who has the disorder. It can also affect your personality in your relationship with your spouse.

“People with sleep apnea usually experience strain in their relationships caused by disruptive sleep procedures,” Romanoff says. 

Strain in relationships with your spouse can lead to:

  • Reduced communication
  • Reduced intimacy
  • Increased conflict

Sleeping separately can seem like an easy fix, but that may only lead to more problems. 

“Some work out arrangements with their partners to sleep in separate spaces. While this provides refuge from disruption, the tradeoff is reduced intimacy and connection,” Romanoff says.

Think you may have sleep apnea? Start your journey to more restful sleep TODAY.

Untreated sleep disorders can negatively affect your physical and emotional health. Sleep testing can help you get the answers you need to receive the treatment you deserve. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.