Sleep Apnea and Depression

Although sleep apnea is a sleep disorder, this condition can have a negative effect on your overall health, especially if left untreated. Physicians have known for a while that there is a link between apnea and cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke, high blood pressure, and heart failure. This sleep disorder is also linked to a higher incidence of diabetes and to premature death.

In addition to its consequences on physical health, sleep apnea can impact your mental health – causing mood swings, irritability, and depression. In this article, we will discuss how sleep apnea and depression are linked, and we will suggest some strategies to help you manage the symptoms.

Does sleep apnea cause depression?

Not getting sufficient quality sleep can negatively impact a person’s normal functioning and energy levels, affecting self-esteem and leading to depression. 

Feeling sadness, hopeless, or worry can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. In turn, poor-quality sleep and sleep deprivation can increase the risk of developing depression and anxiety.

This is especially true when sleep apnea goes undiagnosed, probably because the person is not aware that they have a sleep disorder – and they suffer from lack of energy and other signs of sleep deprivation.  

On the other hand, depression is a common cause of sleep disorders. Researchers don’t yet understand the connection, but there are overlapping symptoms. 

People diagnosed with depression and sleep apnea may be less likely to follow the prescribed treatment, which will only increase their sleep apnea symptoms. 

SoSo, it’s important to get the depression under control – so you benefit from sleep apnea treatment and improve your overall health.

What are the most common symptoms?

In some cases, you may be depressed without realizing you are. Knowing the most common symptoms can help you be on guard and seek help early on. 

Here’s a list of things to watch out for:

  • Negative emotions that don’t go away. This could include feeling hopeless, worthless, guilty, or deeply sad. 
  • Not finding joy in the things and activities that used to be enjoyable. 
  • Changes in appetite (either eating more than usual or less than usual), plus the subsequent weight fluctuations.
  • Having suicidal ideas, or thinking about death. 
  • Changes to the usual sleep patterns (either sleeping too much or too little). 
  • Social withdrawal. 

It’s also important to know that some of the symptoms of sleep apnea overlap with the symptoms of depressive disorders. For example, irritability, having trouble concentrating, daytime fatigue, or memory loss can be present in both conditions. 

How is obstructive sleep apnea treated?

If you have both sleep apnea and depression, treatment includes a range of behavioral and lifestyle interventions. 

Typically, obstructive sleep apnea is treated with CPAP therapy. This involves using a machine that delivers pressurized air to your airways, via a tube that connects the machine to a facial mask. 

If you want to see an improvement on sleep apnea symptoms, CPAP machines must be used every night. Depending on how quickly you adjust to therapy and on how severe your symptoms are, you may notice results within a week of starting to use a CPAP machine. 

The longer you use CPAP, the better your sleep quality will be, which means your daytime energy levels and overall mood will also improve. This is important to keep in mind if you also experience depressive symptoms, which are likely to improve when you start getting better sleep.

Final Thoughts

If you have symptoms of both depression and sleep apnea, you should seek the advice of specialists -- both a sleep specialist and a mental health expert. 

This will help ensure you get the most out of treatment since there are some mood disorder medications that interfere with CPAP. For faster and optimal results, always follow the advice of your physician and let them know if you struggle complying with CPAP therapy.