Does your spouse complain about your frequent snoring? Are you still tired when you wake in the morning? Do you often take afternoon naps? If so, you may be suffering from a condition called sleep apnea, or obstructed sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is the most common sleep disorder.

Sleep apnea causes you to periodically stop breathing while you're sleeping. Your body feels as if it's choking because of sleep-related decreases or pauses in respiration, causing the oxygen level in your blood to drop. They generally last at least 10 seconds. Sleep apnea can lead to heart attacks, obesity, headaches, and depression or anxiety.

Sleep Apnea and Depression

According to a report in the Annals of General Psychiatry, about 800 out of 100,000 individuals may have both OSA and depression. While it can affect anyone, it's more prevalent in middle-aged men and post-menopausal women.

Sleep disturbances are an element in numerous psychiatric conditions, such as depression. Furthermore, stressors, such as poor sleep, can increase an individual's risk of developing a psychiatric condition. While sleep disturbances and psychiatric disorders often co-exist, we don't know yet which condition comes first. Many experts believe the influence goes both ways. Furthermore, both disorders may share a common neurobiological risk factor.

The most common treatment for sleep apnea is continuous or bi-level positive airway pressure (CPAP/BiPAP), which uses a mechanical device to maintain the upper airways open during sleep. According to John's Hopkins University, CPAP is 95 percent effective; however, about half of OSA patients can't tolerate wearing the CPAP mask, rendering it useless. Some patients do better following surgery, weight loss, or using dental devices.

Using CPAP to treat sleep apnea has yielded controversial findings as far as improving depressive symptoms. However, at the 2012 meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, members presented findings that treating sleep disorders, and sleep apnea in particular, is associated with an improvement in symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

It's important to diagnose OSA in depressed individuals. The concurrence of OSA may also explain why some patients don't respond to appropriate pharmaceutical treatment for depression. Furthermore, undiagnosed OSA may actually get worse with some depression treatments.

What to Do

If you are diagnosed with either sleep apnea or depression, you should also be evaluated for the other condition to ensure you receive appropriate treatment. You can help yourself by following a healthy lifestyle, including eating right and avoiding alcohol and nicotine


Castillo, David. "Sleep Apnea: A Growing Health Concern." Web. 12 May 2011.

Castillo, David. "The Risks of Sleep Apnea." Web. 7 May 2011.

Jeffrey, Susan. "Treating Sleep Disorder Improves Psychiatric Outcomes." Medscape Medical News. Web. 9 May 2012.

chröder, Carmen M., and O'Hara, Ruth. "Depression and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)." Annals of General Psychiatry  4(13) (2005). Web. 27 June 2005.

Johns Hopkins Medicine."Putting Sleep Apnea, and Depression, To Rest." Headway. Web. 21 May 2011.