Untreated Sleep Apnea and Depression: What's the Connection?

Untreated Sleep Apnea and Depression: What's the Connection?

Over the past couple of decades, both the incidences of sleep apnea and major depressive disorder have risen. Today, an estimated 10-30% of adults in the United States have sleep apnea and more than 8% of adults have depression. More revealing, researchers are confirming that much of the crossover between the two conditions is far more than coincidence.

At South County Sleep Solutions and Prescott Sleep Solutions, Dr. Dana J. Rockey and our team have long understood the two-way connection between sleep apnea and depression. As sleep medicine specialists, our goal is to identify such links so that both issues are addressed for better health.

Here, we explore the two-way relationship between depression and sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea and depression at a glance

To better appreciate the connection between sleep apnea and depression, it’s helpful to understand how each affects you. 

Sleep apnea (more specifically, obstructive sleep apnea) is a condition in which the soft tissues at the back of your throat collapse while you sleep, interfering with your ability to breathe. Each time this happens, your brain arouses you so that you can clear the airways to breathe again, and this can happen dozens of times per hour.

As a result, you’re unable to get the restorative sleep you need, which can affect your health and wellness in myriad ways, including:

This last point is where the link to depression comes in, which is a condition characterized by feelings of overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, fatigue, and irritability. 

The bidirectional link between sleep apnea and depression

While it makes sense that losing sleep due to sleep apnea can affect your mood, researchers are linking the sleep disturbance and mood regulation disorder in more clinical terms. For example, research shows that 46% of people with sleep apnea have symptoms of depression.

One study found that major depressive disorder is associated with an 18% prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and, going in the other direction, OSA has nearly the same prevalence of clinical depression (17.6%).

The research linking the two conditions is so compelling that many experts recommend evaluating all patients with depression, especially treatment-resistant depression, for untreated sleep apnea.

Treating sleep apnea

If you suspect your depressive symptoms may be related to sleep apnea, it’s important that you come see us so we can evaluate whether you have the sleep disturbance disorder. If we find that you have untreated sleep apnea, we quickly get to work to remedy it.

Using an oral appliance that you wear at night, or non-surgical NightLase laser therapy, can help keep your airways open, allowing you to get the restful sleep you need for better mental health.

For expert diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea, please call us today at 949-558-0554 in Newport Beach, California, or 928-235-6925 in Prescott, Arizona.

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