Despite the medical community’s insistence that sleep apnea and depression are two completely unrelated conditions, it’s hard to ignore study after study showing that treating obstructive sleep apnea can significantly improve signs and symptoms of depression. Here’s another study that was presented at the SLEEP meeting in Boston last weekend.
Oftentimes, a very high proportion of people with obstructive sleep apnea have clinical depression. It’s estimated that about 24% of men and 9% of women have undiagnosed sleep apnea, going as high as 64% in people over 65. It’s also estimated that only a small fraction of people with sleep apnea are ever diagnosed, with an even smaller fraction of those that are diagnosed being treated effectively. Given these numbers, the implications are huge.
Yes, there are multiple other reasons for clinical depression, but knowing what we know about the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea, shouldn’t all mental health professionals first rule out obstructive sleep apnea before prescribing medications or long courses of psychotherapy?