Iowa Sleep Blog

The Link Between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Depression

Monday, October 05, 2015

During Iowa’s colder months or periods during of stressful events in our lives, it’s natural to occasionally feel sad or “down in the dumps.” However, when that feeling seems to linger for longer periods of time, it could be a sign of depression. How does this relate to sleep? Well, individuals who experience depression are also more likely to have symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. OSA occurs when muscles in the back of the mouth and throat relax during sleep, causing soft tissue to collapse and block the upper airway.

The symptoms of sleep apnea can be closely associated with depression, regardless of other OSA contributors such as weight, age, gender or race. The relationship between the two can be complex, as sleep problems may contribute to depressive disorders and depression may cause you to develop sleep problems. Here are some of the most common connections between obstructive sleep apnea and depression:

Men with a sleep apnea are more likely to suffer from depression

Research and recent studies have shown that men who have OSA are more likely to be clinically depressed. Men that experience both OSA and excessive daytime sleepiness were four to five times more likely to have depression than men without either condition.

Sleepers with depression are more likely to suffer from sleep-disordered breathing

In a study of almost 19,000 people in Europe by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, doctors found that individuals experiencing depression were more than five times more likely to also suffer from sleep disordered breathing, such as snorting, gasping and sudden pauses in breathing. These are all signs of a sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea treatments can reduce depression symptoms

Researchers have found that patients who used a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) showed reduced signs of their depression symptoms. The CPAP machine is worn during sleep to keep the airways open to promote better sleep, lessening the effect loss of sleep can have on depression.

The specific ways depression and sleep apnea are connected are not completely understood by doctors in this fields, but research is on-going. If you know someone who could benefit from learning more about CPAP treatments for OSA, check out some of the other pages on Iowa Sleep’s website, or send our doctors a question through this form to receive more information.