There is a growing body of clinical evidence that suggests a connection between depression and sleep problems. While insomnia is often associated with depression, other sleep problems such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can also contribute to the negative effects of depression. The National Sleep Foundation highlights that the relationship between depression and sleep is complicated, with symptoms of depression appearing before sleep problems just as often as the other way around.
In November, a preliminary study found that sleep therapy may significantly ease the problems of depression. Although the study has not yet been published in the scientific literature, it was featured in the National Institutes of Health’s Medline Plus newsletter. The article stated that treating persistent insomnia at the same time as depression could double the chances that the mood disorder will disappear. If the results of this study are confirmed, it could represent the most significant advance in depression treatment since the introduction of Prozac in 1987.
The study’s results make sense clinically, as individuals with depression may experience extreme loneliness and isolation when they are unable to sleep at night. They are acutely aware that the world around them is sleeping, and their concerns may be magnified during this time. Renowned psychiatrist Dr. Nada L. Stotland commented that the connection between depression and sleep is intuitive, and treating sleep problems may be an essential part of treating depression.
Depression and sleep apnea have been found to have a potential connection, as studies have shown that individuals with depression are more likely to suffer from sleep-disordered breathing, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). While insomnia is commonly associated with depression, other sleep problems like restless leg syndrome have also been linked to depression.
A 2003 study found that people with depression were five times more likely to suffer from OSA, the most common form of sleep-disordered breathing. However, there is a silver lining: treating sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) has been shown to result in a sustained improvement in depressive symptoms, according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Another 2010 study published in Sleep Medicine found that CPAP treatment may lead to a significant improvement in residual depressive symptoms due to the improvement of daytime sleepiness.
In summary, if you are experiencing the effects of both depression and sleep apnea, sleep therapy may offer a potential solution to alleviate both problems and help you achieve a healthier, more energetic lifestyle. Consult your doctor about whether taking a sleep test may be a beneficial option for you.