Chronic Fatigue and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

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What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep condition in which abnormal breathing patterns occur during sleep. Those who are living with sleep apnea can have multiple extended pauses in their breath while they’re asleep. These lapses in breathing can lead to lower quality sleep and affect the body’s supply of oxygen which can have potentially serious health consequences. In the United States, it is one of the most common forms of sleep disorders, affecting both children, adults, and people of both sexes, though it is most common in men.  It’s estimated that between 2-9% of adults suffer from sleep apnea, though it is believed that many cases go undiagnosed. Sleep apnea can occur at any age but it is most common in older adults. Although the prevalence of sleep apnea in the United States has decreased in recent years it is still a constant in many parts of the world and in some cases is on the rise. 

What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a debilitating disorder in which a patient experiences extreme fatigue lasting for at least six months. This fatigue is often worsened with physical or mental activity but cannot be improved by resting. One of the hallmarks of the disorder is it cannot be fully explained by an underlying medical condition. Some of the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include sleep that doesn’t rejuvenate, issues with memory, focus, and concentration, and dizziness that gets worse when going from laying down to standing up.

Some other symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpits
  • Unexplained muscle or joint paint

The exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is still not fully known to doctors, but some factors may include viral infections, immune system problems, hormonal imbalances, and physical or emotional trauma. Doctors will examine the cluster of symptoms for at least six months to determine whether or not someone has chronic fatigue syndrome, working to rule out other possible causes. 

The connection between chronic fatigue and sleep apnea

Although many people with chronic fatigue syndrome experience disruptions in their sleep, the actual connection between sleep and chronic fatigue is not well understood. A study found that most of the chronic fatigue syndrome patients in the study also had a sleep disorder. The researchers further stated that it could be worth considering that sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea may be playing a part in causing or exacerbating chronic fatigue symptoms. Other research has shown a staggering amount of people who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome also suffer from a sleep disorder at the same time. 

Another study found that 58% of their patients had a previously undiagnosed sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea. They suggest that one possible cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is because of how many people in the study had an undiagnosed sleep disorder. This suggests that sleep disorders may be often overlooked when physicians make an attempt to figure out what’s going on with their patients. 


It’s necessary for physicians to more deeply consider the role sleep disorders may be playing in causing chronic fatigue syndrome rather than just pinning the disorder to psychological causes as is often the case. These psychological disturbances may have a root cause in the patient’s physical health rather than emotional. Conditions like obstructive sleep apnea may be at the root of the problem. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms described here, it would be a good idea to talk to us about it. At Fox Dental, we have several different options for treating your obstructive sleep apnea, including dental appliances that are far less invasive than traditional CPAP. Schedule a visit today and we’ll work with you to get you on the path to less fatigue and a better night’s sleep.