Is Sleep Apnea Directly Linked to Depression?

March 10, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders. It causes your breathing to pause during sleep one or more times. These pauses highly disrupt your sleep and you may not even be aware it’s happening. They last from a few seconds to minutes and typically occur 30 times or more in an hour before a person returns to normal breathing with a choking sound or loud snort.

Since it’s moving you out of a deep sleep into light sleep, sleep apnea causes poor sleep quality and excessive sleepiness during your daytime hours. It may not be surprising to hear that this is being linked to depression but fortunately, treating sleep apnea may be the key to treating depression symptoms in some people. Is sleep apnea related to your depression and if so, how can this be treated?

Depression & Sleep Apnea Symptoms

It’s easy to see how depression symptoms could be linked to sleep apnea since they are so similar. Depression symptoms include a change in sleep patterns, a loss of energy, loss of interest in daily activities, feelings of helplessness and irritability. These types of symptoms would also be the same feelings you’d have if you weren’t getting enough sleep. In fact the sleep apnea symptoms that are similar to depression are many, including:

  • Lack of energy during the day

  • Morning headaches

  • Restless sleep

  • Mood changes

  • Forgetfulness

Sleep apnea patients also may notice they are snoring loud, waking up with a dry or sore throat, they experience insomnia or they notice recurrent awakenings.

How Depression and Sleep Apnea Relate

While it’s normal to feel sad once in a while, persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness or disinterest in things once enjoyed are symptoms of depression and it’s now being shown that those with depression are five times more likely to suffer from sleep-disordered breathing like sleep apnea. Since symptoms are so similar for sleep apnea and depression, it’s easy for doctors to misdiagnose. Not only are symptoms for depression and sleep apnea so similar, but they pretty much go hand-in-hand.

A study was done by the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center in which they saw a decrease in symptoms of depression when they treated patients experiencing obstructive sleep apnea through positive airway pressure. For patients that only partially followed the treatment plan, there was still a reduction in depression symptoms. Getting a good night sleep is the brain’s protection of the body and having a sleep routine is the best way to prevent recurrence of mania.

Obstructive sleep apnea is similar in that the breathing starts and stops repeatedly during sleep and over time, this will cause a strain on the cardiovascular system which leads to issues with the heart. In addition, quality of life is affected and mental health issues will result such as insomnia and depression.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea To Reduce Depression Symptoms

It’s a good idea to lay off the caffeine like coffee and soda late at night. Patients can use a mask and a machine which blows air to keep the airways open while they sleep. This will help with the diminished oxygen to the brain and interrupted sleep. Your sleep specialist should be screening for depression. Being overweight is another trigger for sleep apnea, so getting in shape may be a great place to start.

Sleep apnea and depression are definitely related and still being studied for their link to one another. If you’re experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, be aware of depression symptoms that you may be experiencing from this.