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Is There A Link Between Sleep Apnea and Depression

There are millions of people around the world who are affected by sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition in which you tend to experience repeated pauses in your breathing while you are asleep. When you stop breathing, the body responds by waking you up suddenly to resume breathing, as it happens repeatedly, you will end up waking up many times during the night, and these multiple sleep disruptions will prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. This often leaves you feeling exhausted during the day. Recent research has now indicated that sleep apnea can very well cause depression. As many number of people are affected by sleep apnea, there is an equal number of people who suffer from clinical depression. This means that there is a significant number of the population that is affected by both these conditions. Let us take a look at whether your depression is caused by sleep apnea or not?

Is There A Link Between Sleep Apnea and Depression

Is There A Link Between Sleep Apnea and Depression

Research has shown that there is a close correlation between sleep and your mood, as well as between lack of sleep and depression. Some people tend to feel an onset of symptoms from sleep deprivation and depression at the same time, while other people tend to experience sleep deprivation before the depression.

Both sleep apnea and depression are known to share the same risk factors that are likely to increase the chances of developing either of the conditions separately or on a standalone basis.

Research has already shown that insomnia is linked to depression.(1) A study by the University of North Texas found that insomnia is also related to sleep maintenance, and just like sleep apnea, it also had the largest association with anxiety and depression.(2)

A newer study done by the Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Iran found that 46 percent of people who have obstructive sleep apnea also had symptoms of depression.(3)

Sleep Apnea Symptoms Versus Depression Symptoms

The symptoms of sleep apnea and depression tend to overlap, making it difficult for people to understand which condition they are having. This is especially true in many cases because depression is also a common symptom of sleep apnea. Some of the other symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Waking up abruptly and feeling breathless or short of breath
  • Breathing stops while sleeping, waking you up or the person next to you notices that you are not breathing
  • Facing problems in paying attention
  • Morning headaches
  • Feeling excessively tired throughout the day
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking up
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability or mood swings

At the same time, it is essential to know the symptoms of depression, as well. These include:

  • Anger, frustration, and irritability over minor issues
  • Sleep disturbances such as insomnia or sleep apnea
  • Changes in appetite
  • Headaches
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking
  • Fatigue and tiredness

The most significant factor that has to be considered for differential diagnosis is first to find out whether you have sleep apnea, as sleep apnea might very well be causing or contributing to your depression symptoms. For arriving at the right diagnosis, it is vital that you first make an appointment with your family physician, who will then refer you to a specialized sleep clinic. You will have your sleeping pattern evaluated overnight at the sleep clinic in order to determine what kind of sleep disturbance or disorder you are suffering from.

After an initial examination, if your doctor does not feel that you have sleep apnea, then they are likely to refer you to a mental health professional who will help you with your depression.

Conclusion: Coping with Sleep Apnea and Depression

In many cases, treating sleep apnea helps reduce the symptoms of depression or even treat depression. But this is only true if sleep apnea is the cause of or contributing to the depression. There are many methods you can use to treat both sleep apnea and depression at home, before considering going to the doctor. Home remedies that combine treatment of sleep apnea and depression can include:

Avoid sleeping on your back: Sleeping on your back is likely to aggravate the problem of sleep apnea. When you lie down on your back, your tongue might block your airway. So opt for sleeping on your stomach or your side.

Regular exercise: Regular exercising is necessary for your overall health, not just for treating depression and sleep apnea. This will help relieve depression and also help you deal with weight loss. Being overweight or obese is also one of the causes of sleep apnea, and losing weight will help you alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea.

Avoid alcohol intake: Drinking alcohol is only going to worsen your depression and sleep apnea.

Avoid taking sleeping pills: Sleeping pills are not going to help cure sleep apnea or depression. In fact, taking sleeping pills actually causes depression in some people.

In many cases, improving the quality and amount of your sleep has been seen to help treat depression along with other conditions such as anxiety and has also been shown to ease sleep apnea.

If you are struggling with depression or sleep apnea, or both and you find that home remedies are not providing any relief in your symptoms, then you should consult your doctor.

Keep in mind that a good night’s sleep is not a luxury, but a necessity for good health. Improving your sleep and reducing the symptoms of depression will also improve your overall health and also boost the quality of your life.


  1. Sleepdisorders.sleepfoundation.org. (2019). Risk Factors – Sleep eBook. [online] Available at: http://sleepdisorders.sleepfoundation.org/chapter-2-insomnia/risk-factors/ [Accessed 19 Jun. 2019].
  2. Taylor DJ, e. (2019). Epidemiology of insomnia, depression, and anxiety. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=16335332&ordinalpos=9&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum [Accessed 19 Jun. 2019].
  3. Rezaeitalab, F., Moharrari, F., Saberi, S., Asadpour, H. and Rezaeetalab, F., 2014. The correlation of anxiety and depression with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 19(3), p.205.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 23, 2023

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