Sleep apnea is a common and very serious health condition. The good news is that it’s very treatable. The bad news is that most people with the condition don’t know they have it, so they don’t get treatment.

To further complicate matters, many people with sleep apnea are misdiagnosed with other conditions, often with serious consequences. For example, the deadly Metro North train derailment in the Bronx was blamed on the driver’s sleep apnea. The driver had reported many common symptoms of sleep apnea, such as daytime sleepiness and fatigue, but he was diagnosed as having low-testosterone and hypothyroidism.

Now researchers are warning about a potentially common misdiagnosis for sleep apnea: depression.

Portrait of a business man looking fatigued

Depression Is Common in Sleep Apnea

Depression and other mood disorders are one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea. A new study reveals just how common. In this study, 426 patients referred to a sleep clinic were given a mental health questionnaire, known as PHQ-9 to assess their depression before they were give a sleep test. Of these initial patients, 293 were diagnosed with sleep apnea. Of those with sleep apnea, 73% were found to have clinically relevant levels of depression, including 41 patients (14%) who expressed suicidal ideation.

Treating Sleep Apnea Relieves Depression

Researchers then prescribed CPAP for the people who had sleep apnea. Treatment continued for three months before they were tested again.  228 of the sleep apnea patients (78%) used their CPAP as was considered compliant with treatment. Among those compliant with CPAP, depression symptoms dropped dramatically, from 73% to under 4%!

Just as significantly, none of the people expressing suicidal ideation, none did so at follow-up. As a result, researchers noted that doctors should screen patients for sleep apnea if they’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Is Sleep Apnea Causing Your Depression?

If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, you have to consider whether sleep apnea is your real problem. Familiarize yourself with sleep apnea symptoms and if you have them, ask your doctor for a referral to a sleep center or other place to get a sleep test.

And if you’re looking for more comfortable sleep apnea treatment when you find that CPAP isn’t right for you, we can provide oral appliance therapy. Please call (914) 526-2144 for an appointment with a Westchester County sleep dentist at Advanced Dentistry of Mohegan Lake.