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Is Sleep Apnea Causing Your Panic Attacks?

November 17, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — drmogell @ 9:45 pm
woman’s nighttime panic attack

You suddenly wake up short of breath, your heart pounding and your body trembling. You are terribly frightened, and you are sweating. Such an experience is an example of a panic attack, which is a common problem across the United States. Panic attacks can be attributed to a number of different underlying issues. Recent research has even established a possible connection between them and sleep apnea in Boca Raton. Let’s discuss these findings and then talk about a possible solution to both panic attacks and sleep apnea.

Carbon Dioxide and Panic Attacks

For many years, scientists have known that carbon dioxide can trigger responses in people with anxiety disorders. Only recently, however, researchers at the University of Iowa found a molecular explanation for such responses. They found that inhaling carbon dioxide increases brain acidity. That increased acidity, in turn, instigates the release of a protein that plays a central role in anxiety and fear.

A logical extension of the study’s finding relates to how we breathe. We do not necessarily have to breathe in carbon dioxide to experience a degree of poisoning from it. The human respiratory system works on an exchange of gases. We inhale oxygen, and we exhale carbon dioxide. Improper breathing can stop us from exhaling as much carbon dioxide as we should. Short, shallow breaths can cause a buildup in our system that in turn triggers a fear response.

Sleep Apnea and Panic Attacks

Sleep apnea hinders proper breathing at night. The pauses in breathing that it causes may lead to carbon dioxide retention, which might cause nocturnal panic attacks.  Of course, that is not the only possible link between sleep apnea and panic attacks. Sleep apnea contributes to sleep deprivation, which can increase daily stress levels. Stress is a common trigger for panic attacks.

What You Can Do

You may be able to stop your panic attacks — or at least lessen their frequency — by taking measures to improve your breathing. During the day, deep breathing exercises, as well as just taking a few minutes to relax, might do a lot to keep you calm and focused.

If you believe that sleep apnea is a factor in your panic attacks, a visit to a sleep specialist is in order. They can help you arrange for sleep testing, which will provide you with a diagnosis for your sleep problems. If apnea is the problem, sleep apnea treatment in Boca Raton, such as oral appliance therapy or a CPAP machine, may be able to help you breathe easily throughout the night and thus prevent panic attacks.

Do panic attacks plague you? If so, improvements to your breathing may be just what you need to live a calmer, happier life.

About the Author

Dr. Kenneth Mogell is a dental sleep medicine expert who has helped countless patients in the Boca Raton area to find freedom from obstructive sleep apnea and its complications. If you would like to learn how he may be able to help you, contact our office at  561-353-5252.

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