Sleep Apnea Linked To Migraine, Panic Disorder, Hearing And Other Things You Need To Know


Previous studies suggest that both depressive and anxiety disorders emerge after a diagnosis of sleep apnea had been made. However, the exact association between sleep apnea and panic disorder is not clearly established and so a group of researchers decided to investigate on their relationship. Migraines and hearing impairments are also being linked to sleep apnea in other literatures.

A group of researchers, who studied the association of panic disorder and sleep apnea obtained their data from patients diagnosed with sleep apnea from 2000-2010 through the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database. The researchers found that out of 43,496 participants, 263 were stricken by panic disorder after a mean follow-up period of 3.92 years. With this, the researchers acknowledge that sleep apnea may be a risk factor for panic disorder and recommend physicians to consider the comorbid factor of panic disorder in patients with sleep apnea.

Migraine headaches are also said to be related to sleep apnea. According to Dr. Robert Rosenberg, sleep medicine specialist and author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, sleep apnea can aggravate migraine attacks. This is evidenced by studies presenting that migraines were reduced by 50 percent following successful treatment of sleep apnea. The pathophysiological factor responsible for the said association may be the combined effects of low oxygen and inflammation caused by sleep apnea.

Hearing may also be linked with sleep apnea. According to previous reports, snoring is a key clinical manifestation of sleep apnea and when harsh internal vibrations occur inside the ears due to snoring, "noise trauma" may occur, resulting in hearing impairment and subsequently, hearing loss.

Here are some information about sleep apnea, including its epidemiology, signs and symptoms, diagnosis and treatment according to the American Sleep Apnea Association:

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is the involuntary cessation of breathing while asleep. There are three types of sleep apnea namely, obstructive, central and mixed. Their differences are mainly due to the root cause of the breathing problem.


Sleep apnea is a common condition and affects approximately more than 1.8 million individuals across the US. A person's risk of developing sleep apnea may be increased by being a male, overweight and having an age of 40 and above. Although these risk factors are well noted, sleep apnea may occur in almost anyone, even in children.

Signs and symptoms

The clinical manifestations of sleep apnea include loud snoring, dry throat upon waking up, sleepiness throughout the day, morning headaches and mood changes.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

Sleep apnea is diagnosed after an individual has undergone a series of sleep study tests. The testing may require patients to stay in the hospital overnight to monitor sleeping patterns. The series of diagnostic assessments include electroencephalogram (EEG), electrooculogram (EOG), electrocardiogram (ECG), oxygen saturation, vital signs, heart rate and rhythm, among many others.

What are the treatment options for sleep apnea?

There are various treatments and devices, which patients with sleep apnea may use to alleviate their problems. The most common tool for moderate to severe cases is the positive airway pressure device. These devices require patients to wear masks over the nose/ mouth during sleeping hours to supply pressurized air to the patient. The air that flows varies depending on the recommended rate for each individual patient. The elevated air pressure provided by the device will prevent the airway of the patient from collapsing.

Another treatment option is the use of oral appliances. These tools are increasingly becoming popular and many are regarding this as the first line of treatment for patients with sleep apnea. The device works by holding the lower jaw to keep the airway open and prevent the tongue and muscles from impeding the patient's airway.

In conclusion, there are many factors associated with sleep apnea. With this, clinicians are recommended to consider these comorbidities when planning care and treatment for patients with sleep apnea. The public should also be aware of their risk and basic health information regarding the disorder.

Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões | Flickr

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