What Every Technologist Should Know About Depression and Sleep Apnea
What's the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and depression?
A new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that people with sleep apnea are at increased risk for depression, but that CPAP therapy for their apnea may ease their depression.
The Austrailian study included 293 men and women who were newly diagnosed with sleep apnea. Nearly 73 percent had depression when the study began, and the worse their apnea, the more severe was their depression.
Studies confirmed link between depression and sleep apnea
Previous studies, like the one published in the journal Sleep claimed to be the first nationally representative survey to examine this relationship. In its survey of 9,714 American adults sleep apnea symptoms were associated with probable major depression, regardless of weight, age, sex or race.
Patients with undiagnosed sleep disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness, the primary symptoms of sleep apnea, are found to be more likely to have depression
These studies imply that the combination of depression, excessive daytime sleepiness and obstructive sleep apnea can put pateints at a greater risk.
Treatment of sleep apnea can lessen symptoms of depression
While there is not much available evidence from large studies to inform how best to manage this combination of sleep apnea and depression among men, many small studies report that the sleep apnea treatment continuous positive airway pressure CPAP therapy has been shown to reduce severity of depression.
For instance, a 2007 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reported that while CPAP did appear to relieve depression symptoms, the study authors were unable defintely pinpoint to the therapy as the driver of relief.
They hypothesized, however, that CPAP therapy "might ameliorate the symptoms by improving sleep continuity, by ameliorating the adverse effects of various neurotransmitters, [or] by alleviating the adverse effects of any attendant hypoxemia." More importantly, the improvement in depression symptoms appeared to be sustained and long term.
Encourage your patients to open up about depression to their sleep physicians
We recommend that you encourage your patients to discuss their sleep quality with their physician whenever they exhibit depression-like symptoms. We also encourage technologists not to assume that depression is simply the result of sleep apnea or related sleep disorders.
As Dr. Rich Rosenberg, the author the Journal Club article on "OSA and Depression" would say, the relationship between depression and OSA is often described as "the chicken or the egg question."