What is the Relation Between Sleep Apnea and Depression?

Sleep apnea is known to be a serious sleep disorder in which breathing stops repeatedly and then starts again during sleep. If you tend to snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, then you might be suffering from sleep apnea. Depression, on the other hand, is a common and serious medical illness which affects how people feel negatively, as well as the way you think and act. It can cause feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.

a crying woman with her hands on her face

Sleep apnea and depression are two different illnesses, but did you know that they can be linked to one another? Because according to research, snorting, gasping, or short interruptions in breathing during sleep may be connected to depression symptoms. Let us know more about the relation between sleep apnea and depression.

Sleep Apnea and Depression

Since sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing during sleep, it can lead to fatigue, headaches, and insomnia which can affect your everyday life. Based on recent research, sleep apnea can cause depression. In fact, an estimated 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea and 15 million adults experience major depressive episode yearly. This means that a significant number of the population could be affected by both sleep apnea and depression.

There is a connection between mood and sleep and as well as lack of sleep and depression. There are some people who experience an onset of symptoms from both conditions at the same time. But there are also some who experience sleep deprivation first before the depression. Both sleep apnea and depression share risk factors that can increase the possibility of developing either condition uniquely.

There is research that shows insomnia is tied to depression. But there’s also an older study found that insomnia related to sleep maintenance, like sleep apnea, had the largest connection to anxiety and depression. And based on another newer study, about 46% of people who suffers from obstructive sleep apnea had depressive symptoms.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea and Depression

The symptoms of sleep apnea and depression can sometimes overlap which makes it difficult for people who experience it to realize that they are experiencing both conditions. It is because depression can also be a symptom of sleep apnea. To further see the relation between sleep apnea and depression, here are their symptoms.

Symptoms of sleep apnea

  • snoring loudly
  • breathing interruption while sleeping which can wake you up or can also be noticed by another person
  • rudely waking up and feeling short of breath
  • problems with attention
  • feeling very tired during the day
  • having headaches in the morning
  • having a dry mouth or sometimes a sore throat when you wake up
  • irritability
  • difficulty in falling asleep

Symptoms of depression

  • being irritated, frustrated, or angry over small issues
  • being sad and feeling empty or hopeless
  • appetite changes
  • having disturbed sleep or suffering from insomnia
  • tiredness and fatigue
  • thinking and concentration troubles
  • headaches

To be able to do a differential diagnosis, it is first needed to determine if you have sleep apnea. It’s because it can be the cause or it can be contributing to your depression. It is better to make an appointment with your doctor and they will refer you to a sleep clinic where your sleep can be evaluated overnight. On the other hand, if your doctor doesn’t think you’re suffering from sleep apnea, he can refer you to a mental health professional to talk about your depression.

Coping with Sleep Apnea and Depression

Treating sleep apnea can also help in treating depression or reduce its symptoms in some cases, especially if it is one of the causes of your depression. Before you see a doctor, there are some methods you can do at home to start treating both conditions. Here are some of the ways to cope with sleep apnea and depression.

  • Exercise Regularly

Exercising regularly can help lessen depression and can also help with weight loss. Weight loss is one of the effective ways to ease obstructive sleep apnea that is caused by being overweight.

  • Do Not Sleep on Your Back

Sleeping on your back may cause your tongue to block your airway. Therefore, you should try to sleep on your side or stomach instead to prevent suffering from sleep apnea.

  • Avoid Drinking Alcoholic Beverages

When you’re suffering from sleep apnea which causes depression as well, you should try to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages. This is because it can make both conditions worse.

  • Do Not Take Sleeping Pills

There are people who rely on sleeping pills when they suffer from sleep disorders like sleep apnea. However, sleeping pills cannot help in treating sleep apnea and they can also cause depression in some people. That’s why it’s better to avoid taking them.

There are a large number of cases where improving the amount and quality of sleep helped treat depression and other conditions related to it like anxiety in addition to treating sleep apnea. If you are suffering from sleep apnea and depression and the tips we shared still does not work, then maybe it’s time to see a doctor.

Always remember that high-quality sleep is a necessity for all of us. Improved sleep and reduced depression can improve the overall health of people and as well as the quality of life. If you want to know more about sleep apnea, you can check out our post on What is Sleep Apnea? for more information.