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What Is the Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Depression?

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person stops breathing while they're sleeping.
Losing weight reduces the chance of developing sleep apnea.
Obese individuals are at an increased risk for developing sleep apnea.
Article Details
  • Written By: J.L. Drede
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Some studies have shown that there is a connection between sleep apnea and depression. One study done by the Stanford University School of Medicine found that a person with depression is more than five times likely to have a breathing-related sleep disorder than a person who is not depressed. In the same study, one doctor said that it is difficult to tell just how much sleep apnea and depression are related. It may be the case that the fatigue and other side effects of sleep apnea lead to depression. Conversely, fatigue and mental problems associated with depression may lead to sleep apnea. The connection between sleep apnea and depression is so great that today many doctors recommend screening for one if they suspect the other.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which a person stops breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea is usually caused by obstructions in the throat that impede breathing. In rarer cases, it is caused by more complex causes involving the brain not sending proper signals to the muscles that control breathing during sleep.

Excessively loud snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea. Other common symptoms include waking up with a dry mouth and headache. As sleep apnea affects the quality of a person's sleep, most people who suffer from sleep apnea experience excessive sleepiness during day. Since excessive sleepiness and fatigue are both symptoms of depression, many times one is misdiagnosed for the other.

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Another condition that ties both sleep apnea and depression together is weight. Overweight people are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea, just as they are more likely to suffer from depression. It may be that both sleep apnea and depression are side effects of excessive weight gain and not directly connected to each other.

Whatever the causes of the sleep apnea, treatment for the condition is usually the same. Sleep apnea equipment is usually prescribed by a doctor to aid in the person's breathing at night. These devices resemble respirators and help force air down the person's airway. Sleep apnea devices like these can help cure the person of his or her chronic daytime fatigue and other health problems related to the condition.

Mental health is generally related to physical health. Treating sleep apnea by using these devices and loosing weight to eliminate the condition altogether can both help treat a person's depression. If depression lingers even after the sleep apnea has been treated, then it may be time for the person to seek medical treatment for that condition on its own.

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