Sleep apnea could be the sign of a serious mental health issue

A new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has found a shocking connection between sleep apnea and a serious mental health condition, with researchers saying their findings show the sleep condition could be misdiagnosed as depression.

Millions of Australians suffer from sleep apnea, a condition that stops your breathing repeatedly while you sleep and chronic snoring is often the first sign of an issue.

While previous studies have shown that undiagnosed sleep apnea can increase the risk of depression if untreated, new studies show that the higher the severity of sleep apnea, the higher the risk of depression.

426 men and women with suspected sleep apnea participated in the study and took the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), which assesses symptoms of depression, as well as a sleep study of their brain, oxygen levels, breathing and heart rate.

It was found of the 293 participants who were confirmed to have sleep apnea, 73 per cent also had depression.

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Thankfully, there was a happy ending to the study, and those with sleep apnea trialled CPAP therapy and most found a significant decrease in their depression after three months.

41 participants in the WA study reported feeling suicidal, but none felt the same way after 3 months of CPAP.

Dr David Hillman, clinical professor at the University of Western Australia, and his colleagues say their findings highlight the importance of screening individuals with depression for signs of sleep apnea.

“The findings highlight the potential for sleep apnea, a notoriously underdiagnosed condition, to be misdiagnosed as depression”.


Do you or your partner suffer from sleep apnea?