01/28/2013 05:10 EST | Updated 03/30/2013 05:12 EDT

Suffering From Anxiety? Why Sleep Apnea Might Be the Culprit

Most people carry a lot of stress on their shoulders. A common trend I see amongst my stressed-out patients is anxiety. They're worried and anxious about a lot of things -- but the stress is always a constant, everyday factor.

If you ever feel sleepy at any point during the day, it's absolutely imperative you get tested and treated for sleep apnea. Many people think that feeling tired during the day is normal -- it's not. The nature of sleep apnea is that you can be fit, thin and healthy and still have sleep apnea.

The way sleep apnea works is this -- our airways collapse at night because of the heaviness of the jaw. When the airway collapses, breathing becomes compromised, so the brain has to get out of the deeper stages of sleep so it can open the airway and keep you alive and breathing. Adrenal glands are firing and you're grinding and clenching your jaw in an attempt to re-open the airway and this happens several times every hour!

The worst part in all this isn't that you're missing out on restorative sleep that slows the aging process and improves cognitive function -- the worst part is that you're waking up from an entire night of feeling panicked and breathless.

Imagine how that impacts you during your waking hours. For people already under tons of stress, this just compounds the stress you face during the day. For many people, a huge source of their anxiety during the day is actually from a feeling of breathlessness they experience at night. If you suffer from sleep apnea, you're panicked all night long as you gasp for air -- unconscious and unaware the entire time, but still paying the emotional price in the form of anxiety during the day.

Why not get ahead of the stress of the day by waking up feeling positive and optimistic so you can handle the challenges of the day? My recommendation to people who are feeling symptoms of anxiety and/or aren't happy with the sleep they're getting is that they see their dentist to have a mandibular advancement device made and an MD sleep specialist to discuss treatment.

It's the quality of the sleep that's important, but also eliminating that fight-or-flight response at night, to improve anxiety and stress during waking hours.

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ALSO: Here are author Michelle Cederberg's 10 ways to get the best sleep:

How To Get The Best Sleep