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Is There a Link Between Sleep Apnea and Depression?

SummaryNot getting a good night sleep can contribute to depression, but depression also contributes to not getting a good night sleep. Read about the link and how helping one can help the other.

Everybody feels sad sometimes. It’s a healthy part of learning to cope with the natural ups and downs of life. Depression, however, is much more than just a way of processing feelings. Clinical depression is a mood disorder — no small matter easily fixed with a bowl of chunky chocolate ice cream. More than 12% of Canadians have been diagnosed with clinical depression at least once in their life, and insomnia is a big part of that. Yes, depression and insomnia are linked. Many studies, including this one from Stanford University, show a link between sleep apnea and depression. 


How does sleep apnea fit in? People with depression are five times more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder that affects breathing. Breathing stops for a few seconds when the muscles relax during sleep. The soft tissues in the back of the throat collapse and block the airway. The sleeper stops breathing and jolts awake to begin breathing again. Of course, this interferes with the regular sleep cycle because these awakenings can happen as many as a hundred times in a single hour. The sleeper may not even be aware of what is happening, but the body and the brain both suffer the effects.

Those effects occur because without getting a good night’s sleep it is harder to recover from depression. The body requires sleep to heal itself, and without receiving adequate REM sleep in its proper form, then healing can’t occur. By properly addressing sleep apnea and some of the other health issues that make sleep apnea worse, depression can also improve.


How does this work? Our natural sleep rhythms and patterns are meant to leave us feeling restored and rested. During sleep, the body and the brain work together to address the various damages of the day, repairing organs, rebuilding and strengthening muscles, burning fat, healing and rejuvenating all systems. If the quality of sleep isn’t good, then that can’t happen. The brain is still active during sleep, processing the stimuli it received while awake, but to do this work, it needs to successfully drift into and out of the REM and non-REM stages of sleep.

Depression and breathing problems during sleep are common and often people are not aware that they have either, as both are under diagnosed and under reported. Researchers suggest that screening for both can lead to better diagnoses and better treatment.


Depression affects motivations and behaviours as well as emotions, and those suffering from mood disorders do not always see the link clearly.

Sleeping well is the first step in good health. See a sleep specialist if you think that sleep disorders might be influencing your life. CPAP therapy in Edmonton can make a big difference in the quality of sleep that you are getting. There are a number of apparatus available to provide sleepers with continuous positive airway pressure. Talk to an expert who can help you find the right breathing apparatus to open up your airways and have you sleeping without interference. Your outlook will improve when you begin sleeping well. If you are looking for sleep therapy in Edmonton, talk to a sleep specialist from CPAP Solutions Inc.

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