This is a guest post by Shanna Laub. I’m pleased to publish this piece because it refers to some recent research about the link between sleep deprivation and depression. This is something that interests me, having noted from my own experiences that there appears to be a connection between sleep and depression.
Having depression is a lot like flying a plane on autopilot through turbulence into a black hole. It makes you exhausted, distracted, irritable, and interferes with your day.
According to a recent study from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, some depression could be a direct result of sleep apnea, and may require nothing more than a full night’s sleep rather than daily medications.
What the Study Found
The study overlooked 10,000 American adults and their spouses for indications of obstructive sleep apnea and found that 6 percent of men and 3 percent of women did indeed have severe sleep apnea that required treatment. The rest of the participants were not diagnosed with apnea; however they had symptoms such as fatigue, daytime drowsiness, gasping and snorting that are associated with many sleep disorders.
The study also found that in general sleep apnea was associated with probable major depression. But, interestingly, it also found that where the existence of symptoms of sleep apnea were present 5 or more times per week there was a strong association between sleep apnea and probable major depression, in both men and women.
Of course, it is important to bear in mind that the study does not prove a causal link between sleep apnea and depression. But the existence of the association between the two seems to be quite clear, especially in the worst cases of sleep apnea.
What Experts Say
According to Dr. Kevin Berry, who treats apnea patients in Denver, depression can have a serious effect on a person’s quality of life, and poor sleep can frequently be the cause.
“When you’re always tired, everything in life is harder,” he said. “Your emotions are all over the place. You might snap at loved ones and you know that’s probably not like you. You start to question, ‘What is wrong with me?'”
Depression is a common problem; however, few understand the link between sleep and mood disorders.
“Depression is a big one,” says Dr. Mark Weiser, a sleep dentist in Santa Barbara. “Not everyone with sleep apnea gets depressed, but the patients who do are frequently popping anti-depressants that are helping them cope with what actually turns out to be a symptom of a larger problem in and of itself. The brain needs rest just like the rest of the body, and when it does not get rest and it doesn’t get the amount of oxygen it needs, of course there are going to be consequences.”
How Sleep Apnea Affects the Body
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that causes the sufferer to cease breathing for as long as a minute or two while they sleep. A lack of oxygen to the brain prevents the sleeper from staying in REM sleep, which is the process that allows our bodies to relax and sort through the stress of the previous day. This can have adverse affects on us physically and psychologically; and the loss of air keeps our brains from functioning normally, which can lead to depression among other symptoms.
“I see patients all the time who come in for another problem, complete our screening paperwork that includes questions about sleep, and we make sure they are tested for sleep apnea because they are suffering from so many terrible sleep disorder symptoms,” Dr. Berry said. “They don’t realize that they don’t have to go on suffering from snoring, daytime sleepiness, moodiness and depression.”
There are many treatment options for sleep apnea and other sleeping disorders that could be causing fatigue, daytime drowsiness and depression in hundreds of thousands of people. If you are experiencing depression and sleeplessness, it might be time to find out whether you are actually suffering from sleep apnea.