According to a recent Australian study, there is a significant link between sleeping apnea and depression. Furthermore, there is also a link between daytime sleepiness and depression, but it all culminates when the patient has both conditions, as he will be considerably more prone to depression.
Obstructive Sleeping Apnea (OSA) is a condition that manifests by the patient frequently stopping his breathing for a few seconds each time during his sleep. It mostly manifests in elderly patients, but it is not uncommon among younger ones as well.
Obviously, patients are predisposed to develop OSA if they have other respiratory system issues that might lead to the obstruction of the airway on a regular basis. If during the day, it is easy for the patient to unblock their airway, that is not the case while they are asleep.
Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is manifested by the patient’s pronounced fatigue during the day, accompanied by the difficulty to concentrate and the lack of energy.
The study was conducted by the University of Adelaide in Australia where the researchers closely observed 1875 men. Firstly, they assessed the patients’ level of depression by giving them questionnaires. The first assessment was performed at the beginning of the study and the second five years afterwards.
Secondly, they were all screened for OSA and EDS so as examine whether or not there is a link between these conditions. Their findings revealed that there is an association between OSA and depression and also between EDS and depression, but the most advanced forms of depression were linked to patients who had both conditions.
“Men with previously undiagnosed OSA and EDS had 4.2 times greater odds of depression than subjects without OSA and EDS and 3.5 times greater odds of depression than individuals with either OSA or EDS alone,” said Dr. Carol Lang, the lead author of the study.
Since Dr. Lang’s study is preliminary, he cannot conclude that depression is caused by either EDS or OSA. What the study reveals is that there is a strong connection between them. This theory is corroborated by a study conducted by the CDC, that has assessed the correlation between several respiratory symptoms, like impaired breathing, snoring, gasping and sleep apnea and depression.
In spite of the findings of both the University of Adelaide and the CDC, nothing more than a link between these medical conditions can be concluded at this time. Further research need to explain the physiopathology of the connection in great detail so as to consider either OSA or EDS causes of depression.
For the moment, Dr. Lang advises patients who are suffering from OSA or EDS to go to their doctor so that they be assessed for depression. Moreover, depressive patients are also advised to get screened for respiratory illnesses, so that they be treated for them.
While treating the respiratory conditions has been proved in some small trials to improve the depression as well, it is not yet confirmed that it will be a successful method for treating all depression patients.
Ultimately, treating a patient for OSA or EDS will improve his/her life despite the link to depression, and it is therefore worth doing. It remains to be seen what future research will reveal on this matter and if the connection between these illnesses can be explained. The Australian study will be presented at the American Thoratic Society 2015 International Conference and it has all the chances of being a success.
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