How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Depression

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that affects millions of people around the world. For those who suffer from it, the quality of their sleep is often compromised, leading to a range of physical and psychological problems. One of the most significant consequences of sleep apnea is its link to depression. In this article, we will explore how sleep apnea can affect depression and what steps can be taken to mitigate its impact.

Understanding Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes a person's breathing to be interrupted during sleep. This can happen due to a variety of reasons, such as a blocked airway, or a problem with the brain's control over breathing. The most common type of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the muscles in the throat fail to keep the airway open while sleeping.

One of the most noticeable symptoms of sleep apnea is loud snoring, which can sometimes be accompanied by gasping or choking sounds. Other symptoms include fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and difficulty concentrating. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to other health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Depression

Research has shown that there is a strong link between sleep apnea and depression. In fact, studies have found that people with sleep apnea are at a higher risk of developing depression than those who don't have the disorder. There are several reasons for this:

  • Sleep disruption: People with sleep apnea often experience interrupted sleep, which can make them feel fatigued and irritable. This can lead to a range of negative emotions, including sadness and hopelessness.
  • Brain function: Sleep apnea can also lead to changes in brain function, particularly in the areas of the brain that regulate mood. These changes can contribute to the onset of depression.
  • Inflammation: Sleep apnea has been linked to increased inflammation in the body, which is also a risk factor for depression.

How Sleep Apnea Can Worsen Depression

Not only is there a link between sleep apnea and depression, but the disorder can also worsen depression symptoms. Some ways in which this can happen include:

  • Increased fatigue: People with sleep apnea often feel tired throughout the day due to a lack of quality sleep. This fatigue can make it difficult to perform daily tasks and can further contribute to feelings of hopelessness and sadness.
  • Increased anxiety: With sleep apnea, there is always the risk of breathing problems, which can cause anxiety and panic attacks. This anxiety can exacerbate feelings of depression.
  • Decreased quality of life: Depression can significantly reduce a person's quality of life, and sleep apnea can make this even worse. People with sleep apnea may find it difficult to participate in activities they once enjoyed or engage in social situations.

Treating Sleep Apnea to Improve Depression

If you are suffering from both sleep apnea and depression, it is essential to seek treatment for both conditions. Treating sleep apnea can have a significant impact on depression symptoms. Here are some ways to address sleep apnea:

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine: This machine delivers a constant stream of air through a mask, which helps keep the airway open during sleep.
  • Lifestyle changes: Losing weight, quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, and sleeping on one's side can all help reduce sleep apnea symptoms.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct sleep apnea.

It is also essential to address depression through therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Talk to your doctor about the best course of treatment for you.


Sleep apnea and depression are two significant health conditions that can intersect in ways that negatively impact a person's wellbeing. However, by addressing sleep apnea through various treatments and taking steps to manage depression symptoms, it is possible to improve one's overall quality of life. If you suspect that you may have sleep apnea or depression, do not hesitate to seek help and guidance from a medical professional.