Treating sleep apnea may improve depression


Feeling down? If you have obstructive sleep apnea, treating it with CPAP therapy might improve symptoms of depression.

In a recent study that included nearly 300 sleep apnea patients, 73 percent were also found to have “clinically significant depressive symptoms.” However, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy was shown to dramatically improve these symptoms.

“As our research points out, disturbed sleep from obstructive sleep apnea can result in symptoms that mimic depression, creating the potential for misdiagnosis and the wrong treatment being applied,” says senior author David R. Hillman, M.D., a clinical professor at the University of Western Australia.

He adds that obstructive sleep apnea, which is notoriously under diagnosed, can also be readily treated. The results?

“Our findings show that the depressive symptoms associated with it resolve quickly once treatment is started,” says Hillman.

For the study, adhering to CPAP therapy meant using it for at least five hours per night over a three-month period.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the airway becomes blocked during sleep. In some cases, it may even collapse. It typically occurs in overweight individuals and is associated with snoring, pauses in breathing while sleeping, and daytime sleepiness.

CPAP therapy is perhaps the most common treatment approach. It involves a mask that’s connected to a device to generate pressure that keeps the airway open during sleep.

If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and more.

“If you feel low and you have other symptoms that suggest sleep apnea, such as snoring and daytime sleepiness, get the possibility checked out,” says Hillman.

Last year, Metro reported on a new treatment that uses an implantable pacemaker-like device to improve symptoms of sleep apnea. This represents a particularly attractive option for people who have trouble tolerating CPAP therapy.

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