Depressing problem of sleep apnoea

Latest research from Monash University shows one in five people with sleep apnoea suffer from clinical depression and almost a quarter use antidepressants.

The study explored the prevalence of depression and antidepressant use in 109 patients with untreated obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and found 22.7 per cent had clinical depression. Furthermore, 24.8 per cent of patients were using antidepressants.

“Clinical depression and antidepressant use is common in patients with OSA,” said study lead Dr Melinda Jackson from the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health.

“Depression in the context of OSA carries with it a large burden of disease, particularly reduced quality of life.”

Clinical depression is associated with poorer quality of life and greater anxiety and stress symptoms in OSA patients. However, in a chicken or egg conundrum, researchers are unsure if sleep apnoea causes depression or if depression causes sleep apnoea.

“A point of uncertainty is the time course of depression and OSA onset,” the study said.

“Depression, at least in some patients, may develop as a result of the sleep disorder.

“Conversely, in some patients, the presence of depression may precipitate or exacerbate OSA through weight gain, decreased motivation for activity and exercise, alcohol use or sleep disruption.”

Researchers raised the possibility that treating sleep disorders may reduce the burden of depression in patients with both OSA and depression.

The next step of the research is to explore whether treating the sleep disorder may reduce the burden of depression in patients with both depression and OSA.

The study says safe, effective and inexpensive treatment exists for OSA and thus claims OSA is a modifiable factor that, if treated, may reduce the economic, healthcare and personal burden of depression.

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