Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) disrupts almost every aspect of a patient’s life, including their dreams. How patients dream may not seem like a big deal, but dreams can both trigger and point to other problems. There is limited research on the impact of sleep apnea on dreams. Yet, patients and healthcare providers report a change in dreams due to OSA.
How Does OSA Impact Dreams?
Patients with sleep apnea commonly report increased nightmares, including disturbing and emotional dreams. Some patients experience dreams about choking or other scenarios with difficulty breathing because of the lack of oxygen while they sleep.
Unfortunately, frequent nightmares can lead to increased anxiety and depression. The patient’s awake cognitive state suffers from poor sleep and bad dreams.
OSA impacts patients’ perception of dream frequency differently. Some patients have fewer dreams because cognitive impairment reduces dream recalls. Other patients experience more dreams because frequent arousal from sleep increases their dream recalls.
OSA Reduces REM Sleep
REM sleep is a deep sleep that restores the mind and body. REM sleep also supports social and emotional functioning. When a patient wakes up frequently due to obstructed breathing, REM sleep suffers negatively, impacting mental and physical health.
For patients who feel they dream less due to OSA, the loss of REM sleep may contribute because people dream during REM sleep. Less deep sleep may mean fewer dreams.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Improves Sleep and Dreams
Thankfully, patients who implement sleep apnea treatments enjoy better sleep and dreams. The CPAP machine is the most commonly recommended intervention for OSA. The machine forces air into the patient’s airway and offers excellent results in reducing sleep apnea symptoms.
Oral appliances also work to reduce sleep apnea symptoms. Patients wear the custom device while sleeping to hold the jaw in place and keep the tongue from falling back to block the airway. Some patients prefer the oral appliance over the CPAP machine because of its ease of use.
Regardless of your chosen intervention, managing OSA symptoms relieves and improves health. Plus, patients enjoy a restful sleep with fewer disruptive dreams.
Marianna Kovitch, D.M.D., is a diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (DABDSM). Dr. Kovitch received her Doctor of Dental Medicine from the Medical College of Georgia after earning her Bachelor of Science with honors in chemistry. She also received recognition in research publications for her work in biochemistry from Georgia State University. Dr. Kovitch has been an active board member of the Academy of General Dentistry since 2013 and has contributed to the development of dentistry excellence in Georgia.
Marianna Kovitch, D.M.D., DABDSM • Atlanta Smiles
404.262.7733 • www.goodnightsleepga.com