People who suffer from both PTSD and sleep apnea can find it very challenging to get a good night sleep. Those two conditions usually bring along a whole host of health issues with them. Tricky part is getting a better night's sleep can be the key to curing many of those other health issues. For a person with PTSD who often feels anxious and out of control getting a good night sleep can be a tall order if the cure involves a CPAP machine to open their airway.
Dr. Christina Cairns with Colorado Springs Sleep Apnea and Snoring Solutions says "The underlying tenant is when we fall asleep we need to feel safe, and if we don't feel safe when we are sleeping then our brain is on a heightened alert and we don't ever truly progress through the stages of sleep that we need to."
A CPAP machine is a common cure for sleep apnea of various degrees, but for a person also dealing with PTSD trying to sleep with a mask on their face can make them feel claustrophobic, or give them the feeling of being suffocated. Dr. Cairns says that's not all, "They also don't care to have the hose (from the mast to the machine) that can make them feel tethered or anchored down to something, they don't feel like they have freedom of movement."
If a person with PTSD is diagnosed with obstructive apnea that is mild or moderate, Dr. Cairns says an oral appliance may be a more effective way to treat sleep apnea. "There is solid high quality research that supports the fact, that an oral appliance is as effective as CPAP machine for mild and moderate patients, CPAP is still the gold standard for severe (sleep apena) patients, but even in those cases an oral appliance would be better than nothing.”
For any sleep apnea patient, getting a better night sleep can help get with many other health issues like diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. If you think you suffer from sleep apnea a visit with your doctor is a great place to start, or you could seek get a consultation with a sleep apnea specialist.