Treating Sleep Apnea Helps With Depression, Says Study

2 Oct 2015 by  admin in Sleep Apnea Treatment

Depressive symptoms are often alleviated when sleep apnea is treated, according to a study published in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Prior to the study, nearly 73 percent of the 426 sleep apnea patients showed clinical signs of depression. After three months of treatment with CPAP therapy to resolve their sleep apnea, only 4 percent of the sleep apnea patients had symptoms of depression.

Of the 41 patients who reported thoughts of self-harm or feelings that they’d “be better off dead” prior to treatment, no patients felt that way at the three-month follow-up.

Sleep apnea treatment benefits patients physically and mentally

“The findings highlight the potential for sleep apnea, a notoriously underdiagnosed condition, to be misdiagnosed as depression,” said Australian sleep physician and senior study author David R. Hillman, MD. The results suggested that there are mental health benefits to treating sleep apnea, in addition to reducing the risk of other chronic health problems like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure that have been associated with sleep apnea.

Types of sleep apnea

There are three types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (affects 2% of all women and 4% of men): Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when the tongue or fatty tissues in the throat fall back down the airways, causing a partial or complete blockage that restricts airflow to the brain during sleep. Sleepers may suffer anywhere from five to thirty or more interruptions in breathing per hour.
  • Central Sleep Apnea (approximately 20% of sleep apnea cases): Central Sleep Apnea occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles responsible for breathing. Sometimes brain stem issues occur as a result of Parkinson’s Disease, obesity, heart failure, brain tumor, stroke or prescription painkiller use.
  • Mixed Sleep Apnea (approximately 15% of cases): Some patients have a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea symptoms. Often when Obstructive Sleep Apnea patients are treated with CPAP machines, they develop symptoms of Central Sleep Apnea as well – a phenomena that is still being researched.

Sleep apnea symptoms

People tend not to think of snoring as a health problem – and it’s true that not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, nor does everyone with sleep apnea snore. It’s important to see a medical professional if the quality of your sleep is interfering with your waking life or if you awaken each morning feeling genuinely lousy.

Depending on the type of sleep apnea a person has, common symptoms may include:

  • Habitual, loud snoring
  • Breathing pauses
  • Awakening gasping for breath
  • Awakening with a sore throat and dry mouth
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Irritability
  • Attention problems

CPAP therapy and other sleep apnea treatments

The CPAP machine has been a mainstay of sleep apnea treatment for many years, but compliance rates are low due to discomfort. A bulky machine is attached to a face mask, which must be worn all night. Patients must also ensure there is routine maintenance conducted to ensure the tubes are not leaking and the components have not become worn. It is also a difficult therapy for travelers or people who are deployed overseas and not sleeping at home.

Another option is to see a dentist specializing in non-invasive obstructive sleep apnea treatment. A custom-made mouthpiece shifts the lower jaw forward and opens the bite slightly to keep air passageways open at night.

Here at Long Island Implant & Cosmetic Dentistry, Dr. Nick and Dr. Elliot perform a regular oral exam, take x-rays of the teeth, ask a few general health questions and counsel patients on the pros and cons of oral appliance therapy. The next step involves taking precise impressions of the teeth and fashioning the custom mouthpiece in-office. Best of all, insurance covers most of the cost.

For more information on treating sleep apnea and depression using easy, affordable dental therapy, call 631-296-0609.


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