Living with obstructive sleep apnea or cardiovascular disease can be stressful for anyone, but living with a combination of both can be an even bigger challenge. The combination can also be the source of clinical depression – especially for patients who have suffered a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke. But now, a new study from Flinders University has uncovered a way to treat both depression and obstructive sleep apnea simultaneously, and it could save lives.
Using data from the Sleep Apnea Cardiovascular Endpoints (SAVE) study, researchers at Flinders University in Bedford Park, Australia, uncovered a link between continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy and depression. Examining the data of 2,687 patients who participated in the SAVE study, researchers noted that within 3.7 years following a cardiac event, patients who suffered from depression and who were treated with CPAP therapy for severe obstructive sleep apnea experienced a dramatic reduction in their depression symptoms.
Dr. Randy Sanovich treats sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea in his Dallas clinic. He believes this link is an important but not surprising connection.
“Continuous positive airway pressure therapy helps patients breathe at night by using air pressure to prop the airway open while the wearer sleeps,” he says. “This, in turn, allows the wearer to have a restful night’s sleep, which carries over into their day.”
According to Sanovich, this carry-over could be key to the alleviation of depression symptoms.
“The more rested you are, the easier it will be to go about your day,” he says. “It seems almost too simple, but the data doesn’t lie.”
Sanovich is right. A recent study found that those with untreated sleep apnea are more likely to suffer from frequent loss of jobs, lower wages, and hourly wages instead of salaries. The study followed 261 patients with an average age of 41 and found that those with undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea were more likely to suffer “long-term negative effects on vocational functioning.”
“Lack of sleep can carry over into every aspect of daily life, including work and mental health,” says Sanovich. “That’s why it’s essential to get treatment for conditions like obstructive sleep apnea.”
Though other means of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea were not studied in the Flinders University study, according to Sanovich, CPAP therapy is just one option for treating the condition. Sanovich’s clinic offers other solutions including everything from Genioglossus Advancement to Maxillary Mandibular Advancement.