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Sleep Apnea and Depression

Sleep Apnea and Depression

A low-pressure cell walks into an isobar in the Bahamas. The result: A tropical depression. Know what else causes depression? Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), characterized by interrupted or halted breathing that triggers gasping and snorting. A new study found that in more than seven out of ten cases the person also has to deal with symptoms of depression, such as hopelessness, feelings of failure, even thoughts of suicide -- something researchers didn’t expect to find.

There is great news, however. One of the most effective treatments for OSA is a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). An oxygen mask goes over your nose and mouth and air is pumped into your lungs while you sleep. (Other effective remedies include losing weight and not smoking or drinking.) CPAP not only eases apnea, the study found that after three months of use only around four percent of patients had “clinically significant depressive symptoms.”

But CPAP is hard to stick with; five years after diagnosis around 46 percent of people are not using their device. That puts them at risk, not only for depression but for heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, for mild to moderate OSA there have been improvements in oral appliances; they can be adjusted to open the jaw so your airway stays clear while you sleep, reducing OSA. Check with your doc and get a referral to a sleep specialist who can determine if one or more of the newer devices is worth trying. It could change your outlook on life.

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