According to a recent study, a common treatment for sleep apnea led not only to an improvement in sleep quality at night but it also alleviate depressive symptoms in patients that didn’t even know that they had the condition.
Sleep apnea currently affects more than 25 million Americans, but it often goes undiagnosed. In some cases, however, it is misdiagnosed as clinical depression making patients’ lives a lot harder.
Patients affected by the sleep condition find it hard to get a good night sleep because their airways narrow or even get obstructed during their sleep. As a result, they often experience abnormal breathing, shortness of breath, loud snoring, chronic sleep deprivation, headaches in the morning, fatigue, and daytime drowsiness.
But researchers add depression to that list and claim that depressive symptoms were successfully treated with help from a conventional device used to treat sleep apnea – the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
Study authors also noted that depression could get worse as sleep apnea impairs more the patient. Unfortunately, many of sleep apnea patients aren’t even aware that they may have a health condition.
Dr. David R. Hillman, the University of Western Australia and co-author of the study, reported that depressed study participants treated with CPAP were less likely to enter a depressive mood or having suicidal thoughts than patients in the control group.
Study authors recommend primary care doctors to screen their patients with depressive symptoms for sleep apnea first, rather than refer them to a psychiatrist or prescribe them antidepressants.
During their study, researchers monitored 426 patients whose GPs suspected that they had the sleep disorder. About 40 study participants said that they were depressed or displayed depressive symptoms. Ten percent of this latter group said that they had recurrent thoughts of self-harm.
Study participants were then asked to use a CPAP device at least five hours per night every night for three months. After this period, the patients’ mental health was assessed too via a standardized questionnaire.
Only 4 percent of patients who had reported depressive symptoms still had the symptoms after the three-month period, while all patients who had suicidal thoughts before the trial said that their self-harm tendency completely vanished following the CPAP treatment.
CPAP devices help air pressure to remain moderately high so that sleep apnea patients’ airways do not become obstructed. The only drawback of the treatment is that patients need to wear a mask tied to a pump via a tube while asleep.
Image Source: Pixabay
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