Sleep Apnea Treatments May Also Ease Depression

Sleep apnea treatments like continuous positive airway pressure and mandibular advancement devices may also treat depression symptoms

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) A common sleep disorder may be tied to depression. The good news? Treating that disorder may also ease depression symptoms.

A new study found that sleep apnea patients who received treatment for the condition saw an improvement in their depression symptoms.

The authors of this new study said that some sleep apnea treatments also treated depression symptoms, but whether those treatments were as effective as other depression treatments was unclear.

In obstructive sleep apnea, breathing can start and stop repeatedly while the patient is asleep. The Mayo Clinic notes that the condition can cause strain on the cardiovascular system and lead to heart problems.

According to the authors of this new review, led by Marcus Povitz, MDCM, of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, sleep apnea can also lead to quality of life and mental health issues like insomnia and depression.

For the study, Dr. Povitz and team reviewed past trials involving patients who received treatment for sleep apnea, which can include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or mandibular advancement devices (MADs).

CPAP typically uses a mask and machine that blows air to keep the airways open. MADs fit into the mouth during sleep and keep the jaw and tongue in the proper position for breathing.

Dr. Povitz and colleagues found that, in 19 studies they reviewed, sleep apnea patients who received CPAP treatment reported a greater improvement in symptoms of depression than patients who did not receive the treatment.

In the five studies Dr. Povitz and colleagues reviewed that involved MADs, the patients who received MAD treatment also saw more improvement in depression symptoms than patients who didn't receive the treatment.

Further research is needed to better understand the topic and explore how treatments for sleep apnea might compare to traditional depression treatments, the study authors noted. In several of the studies reviewed, the patients might have been using antidepressant medications, which might have affected the results. Antidepressants are medications meant to combat depression.

The study was published Nov. 25 in PLOS Medicine.

The Western Regional Training Centre for Health Services Research and a grant from the N.B. Hershfield Professorship in Therapeutic Endoscopy funded two of the study authors. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 22, 2014
Last Updated:
November 30, 2014