As you dream, your brain searches your memories, thoughts, and feelings. And while most people realize that dreams can act as windows into our cognitive states, few realize that they can also shed light on aspects of our physical health. Sleep Cycle Center (SCC) experts say that your dreams in particular can alert you to a potentially dangerous disorder that occurs while you sleep. This is because your brain is subconsciously processing your physical symptoms and can conjure up dreams that reflect them. The SCC warns that if you repeat this topic in your dreams, it is time to see your doctor for a serious health check. Read on to find out which dream can mean a serious physical problem and what other symptoms to look out for.
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Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder, currently affecting approximately 18 million American adults. It occurs when the muscles in the throat relax during sleep, temporarily blocking the airways, and causing pauses in breathing.
Although many people with obstructive sleep apnea are unaware of their symptoms, experts say your dreams may be pointing you to the problem. According to the SCC, if you have sleep apnea, you are more likely to have “living nightmares” symbolizing your shortness of breath – the way your brain is alerting you to the threat. “Common types of nightmares for people with apnea include dreams about strangulation and choking, dreams about trying to breathe underwater or in space, and dreams about clogged pipes and being stuck in an elevator,” explain their experts.
In fact, people with OSA tend to have more nightmares overall – even if they don’t specifically conjure up the symptoms of the condition. one to learn published in Journal of Clinical Sleep and Medicine found that “patients with sleep apnea have more emotionally negative dreams than those without apnea.” If you experience such dreams, you should let your doctor know and get checked for other signs of sleep apnea.
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Experiencing nightmares like these as a result of sleep apnea can also affect your waking life, says the SCC. “Sleep apnea sufferers also reported that these nightmares could have a significant negative impact on their days after they wake up. Daytime anxiety and daytime depression are common in those with sleep apnea who experienced vivid nightmares,” warn their experts.
Research shows that these mental health symptoms are often the direct result of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS), which is “one of the cardinal symptoms” of sleep apnea. “Studies have shown high rates of depression in patients with OSA in both the community and clinical populations,” notes a study published in Frontiers in Psychology in September.
Although nightmares that conjure up feelings of shortness of breath can be the result of sleep apnea, the SCC also says that if you have the condition, you are less likely to recall your dreams overall. “A recent study found that only 43.2 [percent of] People with sleep apnea remembered their dreams compared to 71.4 [percent of] of those without sleep apnea, “explains her team.
There is some evidence that this lack of dreaming occurs because apnea can interrupt the sleep cycle, minimizing the amount of time you spend in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Indeed a 2017 Study published in Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine has confirmed that while sleep apnea can occur during any phase of sleep, it is most common during the REM phase. The researchers behind this study explain that during this phase, “there is an increased tendency for the upper airways to collapse during REM sleep due to the decreased tone of the genioglossus muscle in the tongue”.
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According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several other symptoms that could alert you to obstructive sleep apnea. These include waking up suddenly, daytime sleepiness, headache on waking, or dry mouth or throat in the morning. Many people with sleep apnea also suffer from decreased libido, high blood pressure, and difficulty concentrating, say their medical experts.
Additionally, snoring is a common symptom of OSA. “Snoring doesn’t necessarily indicate something potentially serious, and not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea,” notes the Mayo Clinic. However, their experts say that you “should speak to your doctor if you snore loudly, especially if your snoring is interrupted by periods of silence. With obstructive sleep apnea, snoring is usually and becomes loudest when you sleep on your back.” quieter when you turn around. ” on your side, “they state.
Talk to your doctor if you experience these or any other symptoms of sleep apnea – including vivid nightmares that make you gasp. They may prescribe a CPAP airway pressure device or recommend other interventions to help you sleep – and dream – better.
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