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Can Sleep Apnea Cause Depression?

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Depression?

Sleep is one of the most restorative gifts that we can provide our bodies. Without sleep our physical and mental wellbeing can deteriorate rapidly. Lack of sleep can lead to “increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, poor mental health, and even early death” according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. How can you ensure that you can receive a good night’s sleep? One of the most vital factors in getting a restful sleep is breathing. Sleep apnea, with its intermittent pauses in breathing and disruptive snoring, stealthily infiltrates the tranquility of the night, turning what should be a sanctuary of rest into a battleground for a good night's sleep.

Read more to understand the intricate interplay between sleep apnea and the delicate balance of our emotional well-being.


What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. These interruptions in breathing can last for a few seconds to minutes and may occur multiple times throughout the night. The most common types of sleep apnea are obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA), and complex sleep apnea syndrome (also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea).

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This is the most prevalent form of sleep apnea. It occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax excessively, leading to a blockage or narrowing of the airway. As a result, despite the effort to breathe, airflow is significantly reduced or completely blocked.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): Unlike OSA, CSA is not caused by a physical obstruction in the airway. Instead, it occurs when the brain fails to send the appropriate signals to the muscles responsible for breathing. The result is a temporary cessation or reduction in breathing effort.

Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome: This is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea. It may also be referred to as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, as it can develop in individuals initially diagnosed and treated for OSA.

Common symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, abrupt awakenings accompanied by a choking or gasping sound, restless sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. If left untreated, sleep apnea can contribute to various health issues, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, and an increased risk of accidents due to daytime fatigue.

Diagnosis often involves a sleep study, which can be conducted at a sleep center or with home-based sleep testing devices. Treatment options may include lifestyle changes, such as weight loss or positional therapy, the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, dental appliances, or, in severe cases, surgical interventions.

Person sleeping

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Depression 

Sleep apnea and depression can be interconnected, with each condition influencing and exacerbating the other. The relationship between sleep apnea and depression is complex, and while not everyone with sleep apnea develops depression, there is evidence suggesting a significant association. Here are several ways in which sleep apnea may be linked to depression:

Sleep Disruption: Sleep apnea often leads to repeated interruptions in sleep as breathing stops and starts. These disruptions can prevent individuals from entering deep, restorative stages of sleep, leading to poor sleep quality. Persistent poor sleep can contribute to the development or exacerbation of depressive symptoms.

Daytime Fatigue and Irritability: Individuals with sleep apnea often experience excessive daytime sleepiness and irritability due to the constant disruptions in their sleep cycle. This chronic fatigue can contribute to a decreased ability to cope with stress, increased irritability, and a generally low mood—common features of depression.

Hormonal and Neurotransmitter Changes: Sleep apnea can affect the balance of hormones and neurotransmitters in the body. Chronic sleep disruption may lead to alterations in serotonin, dopamine, and other mood-regulating chemicals in the brain, potentially contributing to the development of depressive symptoms.

Inflammation: Sleep apnea is associated with inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation has been linked to various health conditions, including depression. The inflammatory response triggered by sleep apnea may impact the brain and contribute to depressive symptoms.

Social and Occupational Impacts: The effects of sleep apnea, such as loud snoring and daytime sleepiness, can strain relationships and hinder performance at work. The resulting social and occupational difficulties may contribute to feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, and increased vulnerability to depression.

It's important to note that the relationship between sleep apnea and depression is bidirectional, meaning that depression can also contribute to or worsen sleep apnea. Individuals with depression may experience changes in sleep patterns, insomnia, or other sleep disturbances that can mimic or exacerbate the effects of sleep apnea.

Given the potential link between sleep apnea and depression, it is crucial for individuals experiencing symptoms of either condition to seek professional medical advice. Effective management of sleep apnea, through treatments such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), lifestyle changes, or other interventions, may help improve both sleep quality and mood. Similarly, addressing depression through counseling, therapy, or medication can have positive effects on overall well-being, including sleep.

CPAP machine

Treatments for Sleep Apnea 

Several effective treatments are available for sleep apnea, and the choice of treatment depends on the severity and type of sleep apnea, as well as individual factors such as health status and preferences. Here are common treatments for sleep apnea:

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP):

Description: CPAP is a widely used and highly effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It involves wearing a mask over the nose or both the nose and mouth during sleep. The CPAP machine delivers a continuous stream of air to keep the airway open, preventing pauses in breathing.

Benefits: CPAP is known for its immediate and significant impact on reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea, including snoring and daytime sleepiness.

Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP):

Description: BiPAP is similar to CPAP but delivers different air pressure levels during inhalation and exhalation. This can be beneficial for individuals who may find it difficult to exhale against a continuous pressure.

Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV):

Description: ASV is a more advanced form of positive airway pressure therapy that adjusts pressure levels based on the individual's breathing patterns. It is often used for treating central sleep apnea.

Auto-Adjusting Positive Airway Pressure (AutoPAP):

Description: AutoPAP devices automatically adjust the air pressure based on the patient's breathing patterns, providing variable pressure throughout the night.

Oral Appliances:

Description: Dental devices or oral appliances, such as mandibular advancement devices, can be prescribed to reposition the lower jaw and tongue to keep the airway open. These are typically used for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

Lifestyle Modifications:

Description: Certain lifestyle changes can be effective in managing sleep apnea, especially in mild cases. These may include weight loss, positional therapy (changing sleep position), avoiding alcohol and sedatives before bedtime, and quitting smoking.


Description: Surgical interventions may be considered for severe cases of sleep apnea or when other treatments are ineffective. Surgical options include uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), genioglossus advancement (GA), and maxillomandibular advancement (MMA), among others.

Inspire Therapy:

Description: Inspire therapy is a relatively newer treatment option involving the implantation of a device that stimulates the hypoglossal nerve to prevent airway obstruction during sleep.

It's important for individuals with suspected sleep apnea to undergo a comprehensive sleep evaluation and diagnosis by a sleep specialist. The appropriate treatment plan will be based on the specific characteristics of the sleep apnea and the individual's health profile. Lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and good sleep hygiene, are often recommended in conjunction with other treatments to optimize outcomes.

Person using a CPAP machine while sleeping

WestPrime Solutions Can Help You

The intricate relationship between sleep apnea and depression underscores the importance of addressing both conditions comprehensively. As we've explored the connections between disrupted sleep patterns, hormonal imbalances, and the toll on mental well-being, it becomes evident that tackling sleep apnea can be a crucial step in alleviating depressive symptoms.  Utilizing devices such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine can alleviate much of these symptoms. 

Experience the transformative power of quality sleep WestPrime Direct's cutting-edge CPAP machines. Take the first step towards better sleep—call us today at 714-529-2027 and embark on a journey to a healthier, revitalized you!"

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