Can Sleep Apnea Cause Depression and Anxiety?

sleep apnea anxiety

Tossing and turning during sleep might easily happen to many people, but for some people, it may become a regular issue. When you cannot get enough quality sleep, you wake up tired and you can even experience headaches. When you are not able to get enough REM or deep sleep for several nights, you might want to investigate the issue because Sleep Apnea might be the main problem. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 20 million Americans experience occasional sleeping problems, and up to 40 million Americans struggle with regular sleeping problems such as insomnia, restless sleep, gasping, and other such symptoms.

Is OSA linked with depression?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and depression are easily linked. According to studies in the field, people with depression are up to 5 times more likely to also suffer from Sleep Apnea complications. However, treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea with a CPAP will certainly reduce the signs and symptoms of depression. Patients can get enough quality oxygen into their lungs during sleep, and airway obstructions will not happen. The CPAP helps maintaining the airways open, which means collapsing will not occur during sleep.

Therefore, patients wake up reinvigorated and fresher each morning and this will contribute to a better mood as well. This is how depression can be treated if Sleep Apnea is treated first by regulating the breathing problems. Another study also suggested that OSA patients who used their CPAPs for 12+ months on a regular basis noticed a great improvement in their signs and symptoms of depression. These effects were also long-lasting, not just temporary.

Sleep Apnea is a condition where you stop breathing during your sleep. This pause can last from a few seconds and up to 10 seconds or more. Patients with sleep apnea can experience several such events or pauses per hour. Approximately 18 million Americans suffer from Sleep Apnea, and about 15 million people have to put up with extended depressive episodes every single year. Therefore, quite a significant number of people could put up with both health conditions: depression and Sleep Apnea.

Research data in the field

There is a clear link between sleep quality and mood, and between the lack of sleep and depressive states. Some patients will experience a set of sign and symptoms from both conditions, while others will struggle with sleep problems first, followed by depression. Research shows that both depression and lack of sleep have certain risk factors that can increase the risk of developing any of the illnesses.
There is one particular study which proved that insomnia (lack of sleep) problems are related to sleep management, and Sleep Apnea was found to have the strongest link with depression and anxiety. Research also shows that about half of the patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea struggle with symptoms of depression.

Depression/ Anxiety vs. Sleep Apnea: The signs and symptoms

The symptoms of sleep apnea and depression often times bear similarities. This makes it quite difficult for a patient to recognize whether he is struggling with one or both disorders at the same time. This mostly happens because depression is generally considered the main sign of sleep apnea. Let’s check out the most common symptoms of sleep apnea:

  • Extremely loud snoring- for prolonged periods (not linked to excessive tiredness alone)
  • Cessation of breathing during sleep- you wake up or your bed partner tells you have such episodes during sleep
  • Experiencing shortness of breath
  • Waking up suddenly during the night/gasping
  • Attention & memory problems
  • Headaches in the morning, because of the lack of good quality sleep
  • Dry mouth – specifically if you sleep with an open mouth (a sore throat can also happen)
  • Feelings of irritability during the day

Signs and symptoms of depression include: irritability, changes in the appetite, insomnia, fatigue & tiredness, headaches and concentration problems. As you might easily note, both conditions share many signs and symptoms. In case you have any suspicions that you might be struggling with an underlying Sleep Apnea and this is causing your depressive states, you should check with your doctor for a personalized treatment.

Also, in case you know you have sleep apnea problems and now you have developed depression it is important to treat Sleep Apnea correctly so that you can enjoy good quality sleep again. Don’t let depression and anxiety take over the control. You can control sleep apnea with the use of a CPAP. All you have to do is go through a sleep study, and your doctor will recommend the efficient course of treatment. Once you will use your CPAP at prescribed pressures, your airways will not become blocked again. You will receive enough quality oxygen into the lungs and thus enjoy a restful night of sleep. Your doctor is the one who will recommend the make/model of CPAP and also prescribe the recommended pressure settings.