Hidden Health Risks: Sleep Apnea and Depression

A recent New York Times article highlights a connection between Sleep Apnea and Depression.  The article cites a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which found that adult men diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea are twice as likely to suffer from depression, and women are five times as likely as adults who do not exhibit this sleep disorder.

The study also showed that even those who did not have severe enough symptoms to be diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, but whose sleeping partners reported they snore, snort or stop breathing during sleep were still at a higher risk for depression.  Whether diagnosed or not, the higher the frequency of sleep disturbances, the greater the risk for depression.

Sleep Apnea is linked with depression (photo: cc Flicker)The study only highlights an association, not precise causes-and-effects, but there are several possible contributing factors. Those with Obstructive Sleep Apnea stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night, often for ten to twenty seconds or more.  These pauses in breathing cut off oxygen to the brain, not allowing all brain cells to function at full capacity and causing the person’s mental and physical health to suffer.  Also, OSA patients’ experience fragmented sleep, waking up often to begin breathing again, which can contribute to an imbalance in mental and emotional well-being.  OSA patients have disturbed sleep cycles preventing them from having adequate REM sleep.  If you have ever been sleep deprived, you will understand how never getting adequate sleep can wreak havoc with your health and well-being – just imagine being sleep deprived for months or years!

According to the Sleep Foundation:

The relationship between sleep and depressive illness is complex – depression may cause sleep problems and sleep problems may cause or contribute to depressive disorders. For some people, symptoms of depression occur before the onset of sleep problems. For others, sleep problems appear first. Sleep problems and depression may also share risk factors and biological features and the two conditions may respond to some of the same treatment strategies.

The good news is that treatment of Sleep Apnea has relieved and reversed major depression in European studies.  However, almost 50% of people who suffer from OSA go undiagnosed and untreated, increasing the related health risks and hidden dangers of Sleep Apnea.

At Designs for Dental Health, Dr. Nadler screens all patients for Obstructive Sleep Apnea and also makes custom sleep appliances to treat OSA by allowing patients to breathe more normally while sleeping.  If you have any questions about OSA or how dental sleep appliances can help in relieving symptoms and treating OSA, don’t hesitate to call our office at 908-359-6655.



Read the New York Times article

Learn more about the connection between sleep and depression on The Sleep Foundation’s website