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Symptoms of Depression Reduced with CPAP Therapy

A new study shows that depressive symptoms are extremely common in people who have obstructive sleep apnea, and these symptoms improve significantly when sleep apnea is treated with continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP). Results show that nearly 73% of sleep apnea patients had clinically significant depressive symptoms at baseline, with a similar symptom prevalence between men and women. These symptoms increased progressively and independently with sleep apnea severity.

However, clinically significant depressive symptoms remained in only 4% of the sleep apnea patients who adhered to CPAP therapy for 3 months. Of the 41 treatment adherent patients who reported baseline feelings of self-harm or that they would be “better dead,” none reported persisting suicidal thoughts at the 3-month follow up. “Effective treatment of obstructive sleep apnea resulted in substantial improvement in depressive symptoms, including suicidal idealization,” said senior author David R. Hillman, MD, clinical professor at the University of Western Australia and sleep physician at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth. “the findings highlight the potential for sleep apnea, a notoriously under diagnosed condition, to be misdiagnosed as depression.”

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