Less Depression When Sleep Apnea Treated

Sleep apnea sufferers depression symptoms subside more with PAP treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Some patients find it hard to stick with their sleep apnea treatment (usually a breathing mask) because it may cause discomfort or even embarrassment. But adhering to it even sometimes may decrease depression symptoms.

A recent study provides evidence that the standard treatment for sleep apnea - positive airway pressure (PAP) - can also help decrease symptoms of depression.

Positive airway pressure involves wearing a mask that continuously pushes air into a person's nose so that they do not stop breathing during sleep.

"Treat your sleep apnea to decrease depression."

Lead author Charles Bae, MD, of the Neurological Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and colleagues conducted a study to find out whether adhering to using PAP had any effect on a person's depressive symptoms, since these frequently occur in patients with sleep apnea.

The study involved 779 patients with obstructive sleep apnea who were given standard psychological assessments for depression. Then, after being treated for their sleep apnea with PAP, they were given the assessments again.

A total of 662 of the patients adhered to the PAP treatment as prescribed while 117 did not follow the directions consistently. Dr. Bae's team found that those who had used the PAP correctly and regularly had bigger decreases in their symptoms of depression than those who did not use the treatment as consistently as recommended.

"The score improvements remained significant even after taking into account whether a patient had a prior diagnosis of depression or was taking an antidepressant," Dr. Bae said.

"The improvements were greatest in sleepy, adherent patients but even non-adherent patients had better scores [on the assessment of symptoms]," Dr. Bae said. "Another interesting finding was that among patients treated with PAP, married patients had a greater decrease in [depression] scores compared to single or divorced patients."

The study was presented June 12 at the 26th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Boston.

Because the study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, its results should be regarded as preliminary and still require review by researchers in the field.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health. No conflicts of interest were noted.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 11, 2012
Last Updated:
October 22, 2012