In a large study in Europe, people with depression were found to be five times more likely to suffer from Sleep Apnea. Research has found treating Sleep Apnea with CPAP therapy may decrease symptoms of depression. (1)
Does Depression Cause Sleep Apnea or Vice Versa?
Like the chicken and the egg, no one is quite sure what causes the other. Studies have shown only an association between depression and Sleep Apnea, not the cause and effect.
Differentiating the Symptoms.
It can be difficult to distinguish between the effects of Sleep Apnea and depression. According to psychiatrist Michael Weissberg, M.D., at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, "Sleep disruption, particularly insomnia, can be a risk factor for developing depression, and a lot of symptoms of people who have Sleep Apnea -- they feel lousy, they can’t think straight -- are similar to symptoms people have in depression." (2)
Diagnosed with Depression? Don't Stop There.
Since symptoms of depression can overlap with symptoms of sleep disorders, there is a risk of misdiagnosis. Those diagnosed with depression should consider going for a sleep study. If an individual is found to have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), CPAP therapy will treat the condition and may help lessen symptoms of depression. (3)
CPAP Therapy Can Help.
In one study, nearly 800 participants with both depression symptoms and OSA were treated with CPAP therapy for at least four hours a night. Results indicated all participants who used CPAP had significant relief from depression. Even those who only partially used CPAP saw improvements. (4)
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(1) "The effects of breathing-related sleep disorders on mood disturbances in the general population" - PubMed, Oct 2003 (source).
(2) "Sleep disorder multiplies depression risk" - CNN Health, March 2012 (source).
(3) "Depression and Sleep" - National Sleep Foundation (source).
(4) "PAP Therapy May Improve Depression in People with Obstructive Sleep Apnea" - Cleveland Clinic, June 2012 (source).