Sleep Disorders

30 March 2012

Link between depression and sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea and other symptoms are associated with probable major depression, regardless of factors like weight, age, sex or race.


Obstructive sleep aponea and other symptoms of OSA are associated with probable major depression, regardless of factors like weight, age, sex or race, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There was no link between depression and snoring.

"Snorting, gasping or stopping breathing while asleep was associated with nearly all depression symptoms, including feeling hopeless and feeling like a failure," said Anne G. Wheaton, PhD, lead author of the study. "We expected persons with sleep-disordered breathing to report trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, or feeling tired and having little energy, but not the other symptoms."

The study, appearing in the issue of the journal SLEEP, is the first nationally representative sampling to examine this relationship, surveying 9 714 American adults.

People with medical history

Previous studies have focused on smaller samples of specific populations, such as people suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), depression or other health conditions.

Wheaton, an epidemiologist with CDC, said the likelihood of depression increased with the reported frequency of snorting and/or instances when breathing stopped in the study. She suggested screening for these disorders in the presence of the other could help address the high prevalence and underdiagnosis of sleep apnoea and depression, especially if sleepiness is a chief complaint.

Snorting, gasping and pauses in breathing during sleep are all signs of OSA, a common form of sleep-disordered breathing. Six percent of men and 3% of women in the study reported having physician-diagnosed sleep apnoea. OSA occurs when the muscles relax during sleep, causing soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapse and block the upper airway.

(EurekAlert, March 2012) 

Read more:

Depression highest for those living alone

Weight loss helps sleep apnoea


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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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