Study forges link between depression and sleep apnea

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Mar 30, 2012

Obstructive sleep apnea and other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are associated with probable major depression, regardless of factors like weight, age, sex, or race, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There was no link between depression and snoring.

"Snorting, gasping or stopping breathing while asleep was associated with nearly all depression symptoms, including feeling hopeless and feeling like a failure," said Anne G Wheaton PhD, lead author of the study. "We expected persons with sleep-disordered breathing to report trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, or feeling tired and having little energy, but not the other symptoms."

The study, appearing in the April issue of the journal SLEEP, is the first nationally representative sampling to examine this relationship, surveying 9714 American adults. Previous studies have focused on smaller samples of specific populations, such as people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, depression, or other health conditions.

Wheaton, an epidemiologist with CDC, said the likelihood of depression increased with the reported frequency of snorting and/or instances when breathing stopped in the study. She suggested screening for these disorders in the presence of the other could help address the high prevalence and underdiagnosis of sleep apnea and depression, especially if sleepiness is a chief complaint.

Snorting, gasping, and pauses in breathing during sleep are all signs of obstructive sleep apnea, a common form of sleep-disordered breathing. Six percent of men and 3% of women in the study reported having physician-diagnosed sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles relax during sleep, causing soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapse and block the upper airway.

Source: News Release
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
March 30, 2012