New research: sleep apnea linked to depression in men

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Sleep apnea linked to depression in men

New research by the University of Adelaide has found a profound link between sleep disorders and depression in men.

The research by the University’s Dr Carol Lang involved more than 1800 men over a five-year period and found that those with an undiagnosed sleep disorder and one of the primary symptoms of sleep apnea, excessive daytime sleepiness, were four times more likely to have depression than those without a sleep disorder. And men with a diagnosed sleep condition were twice as likely to have depression.

The research was presented today at the 2015 American Thoracic Society International Conference in Colorado.

“Depression is a serious public health concern and a lot remains unknown about how to effectively treat it in men,” says Dr Lang, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the University of Adelaide’s Department of Medicine. “Men are less likely to seek, and more likely to drop out of, treatment for their depression and are four times more likely to die from suicide attempts than females.”

“Obstructive sleep apnea affects approximately 1 in 2 men and 1 in 5 women, but most of these, up to 82%, remain undiagnosed.

“An association between sleep apnea and depression has been noted in previous research but now we know just how strong this relationship really is in the general community,” she says.

Dr Lang says these are important findings that will help in the diagnosis and treatment of both conditions.

“Our study found excessive daytime sleepiness and severe obstructive sleep apnea are both associated with the prevalence and onset of depression, and the presence of both is associated with an even greater risk,” says Dr Lang.

“With the link between sleep disorders and depression being so strong, I’d encourage clinicians to investigate men with symptoms of either depression or a sleep disorder for the other problem.

“Although there haven’t yet been any studies to guide the management of sleep apnea and depression when they occur together, many smaller studies have found that continuous positive airway pressure therapy for sleep apnea can reduce depression severity in patients suffering from both conditions.

“For now, if you have sleep apnea our advice is to simply be aware of the increased risk for depression and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. It is also important that people with depressive disorders raise any concerns about their sleep with their physician because often sleep problems are assumed to simply be a result of the depression itself and not investigated,” she says.

This research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.


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Dr Carol Lang
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Department of Medicine
The University of Adelaide
Mobile: +61 (0)422 688 324

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