Are Sleep Apnea and Depression Connected?

Sleep apnea and depression have a connection in many people. However many doctors, psychologists, or psychiatrists don't realize how significant it is. Sleep apnea causes symptoms of depression in many patients and it can't be treated effectively unless the patient undergoes a complete evaluation to determine what's causing the symptoms. If sleep apnea is determined to be at the root of the depression, needed therapy and support for the patient and family can begin to alleviate the symptoms. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders has determined that approximately 40 million people have a sleep disorder of some variety, and many of them go untreated, increasing the risk of serious complications including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

A recent New York Times article ALSO  highlights a connection between Sleep Apnea and Depression.  The article cites a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which found that adult men diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea are twice as likely to suffer from depression, and women are five times as likely as adults who do not exhibit this sleep disorder.

Obstructive sleep apnea is becoming increasingly common particularly as our population is becoming increasingly overweight. There's also a high degree of comorbidity between sleep apnea and depression. In a recent epidemiologic study, it was found that patients with depression have approximately a 1:5 risk of having clinically significant sleep apnea and conversely about 1:5 patients with sleep apnea has clinically significant depression. So, sleep apnea should always be a consideration in a depressed patient, particularly one who may be overweight and snoring.

To determine if you are suffering from depression is also dealing with sleep apnea, a general practitioner can refer you to a specialist who can evaluate the patient to determine what the problem is. A person who's had a sleep disorder for a long time and has chosen to get treatment may undergo some changes in their personality, and it's essential to have the support of their family during this time. Professional help is the only way to successfully treat the causes of sleep apnea and depression. However there are support groups for patients and their families that are helpful in dealing with the condition.

The symptoms of depression often include loss of energy, no interest in things that previously interested them, extreme fatigue, and irritability. However these symptoms also affect many sufferers of sleep apnea, so only a professional can determine what's causing the symptoms.

Treatment for sleep apnea and depression depends on the severity of the problem. Given the data on the long-term complications of sleep apnea, it is important for patients to treat the problem as they would any chronic disease. Simply trying to treat snoring will not treat sleep apnea. Because of its association with heart problems and stroke, sleep apnea that does not respond to lifestyle measures should be treated by a doctor, ideally a sleep disorders specialist.

It's scary to think that sleep, something we really don't have much control over, can bring about such serious consequences. In addition to the health risks listed above.