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What’s the Relationship Between Sleep Apnea and Depression?

March 02, 2020

Before we dive into the relationship between sleep apnea and depression, let’s start this off with a quick activity. Take a look at the following list of symptoms and make a mental note of any that you frequently experience.

  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Attention problems
  • Headaches

You may be thinking that these sound a lot like symptoms of depression—and they are—but the interesting thing is, they’re also symptoms of sleep apnea. As you can imagine, this presents a unique challenge when trying to differentiate between sleep apnea and depression.

Sleep Apnea Misdiagnosed as Depression

An estimated 22 million adults in the United States suffer from sleep apnea, and yet it remains a “notoriously undiagnosed” condition. It turns out that overlapping signs and symptoms of sleep apnea may be one of the reasons behind this national problem.

In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers found that a staggering 73 percent of sleep apnea patients had symptoms of depression. According to Medical News Today, the researchers said that “their findings highlight the importance of screening individuals with depression for signs of sleep apnea,” such as snoring and pauses in breathing during sleep.

Since sleep apnea is known to cause or contribute to depression, the good news is that receiving a proper diagnosis and beginning treatment can help alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea and depression.

Sleep Apnea and Depression Treatment

If the depression symptoms you experience are indeed linked to sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy can improve both sleep apnea and depression at the same time. CPAP therapy is widely known for its effectiveness in treating sleep apnea and research shows that it is effective in treating the depression associated with it as well. In the same study mentioned above, researchers found that after three months of CPAP therapy, only 4 percent of sleep apnea patients had symptoms of depression compared to 73 percent at the beginning of the study.

The human body is a complex machine. What initially appears to be one thing may actually be something else entirely. If you think you may have depression, talk to your doctor first and discuss any signs and symptoms of sleep apnea you may be experiencing.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from sleep apnea, an at-home sleep test can be an easy, convenient way to find out. Lunella allows consumers to take a sleep apnea test from the comfort of their own home and receive a proper data-driven diagnosis from a board-certified sleep physician and a prescription for treatment, if necessary.

This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.

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