The link between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and a number of physical health complications, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes has been well-established. New research shows that Individuals with this sleep disorder in Huntsville and Madison are also at risk for depression, anxiety and other affective (mood) disorders.
The Link Between OSA and Depression/Anxiety
A new study, published in the September 2019 issue of JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, found that patients with obstructive sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing depressive and anxiety disorders.
What inspired the study?
Inspired by research showing higher incidences of OSA in those diagnosed with depressive and anxiety disorders, the current study looked at a large national sample of over one million adults to find patients who had been diagnosed with OSA between 2004 and 2006 and compared them with a similar group in terms of age, sex, geography, income, disability and comorbidities who did not have OSA to determine whether the sleep disorder was a factor in increasing the risk of mood disorders. None of the patients studied had been diagnosed with depressive or anxiety disorders at the outset of the study.
Did the study results support the hypothesis?
During a 9-year follow-up period, it was determined the patients with OSA were considerably more likely to experience affective disorders than the control group—49.57 out of every 1,000 OSA patients were diagnosed with mood disorders versus 27.18 out of every 1,000 non-OSA patients.
Anxiety disorders were slightly more common than depressive disorders, and overall, women were more likely than men to develop both depression and anxiety.
Why does sleep apnea increase the risk of depression?
The reason for the link is unclear, though the lack of oxygen experienced by OSA sufferers may play a role. It’s already the main factor in an increased risk for physical health complications due to the additional strain oxygen deprivation places on the heart.
Other researchers have posited that structural or metabolic changes in the brain may be responsible for higher rates of mood disorders among people with OSA.
Did the study miss any factors?
There are some limitations to the study. Besides the inability to positively determine a cause for the link between OSA and affective disorders, there was little or no information on other known risk factors such as body mass index, cigarette smoking, etc.
Regardless, it’s important for health care providers to understand that their patients who have OSA have an increased risk of anxiety or depressive disorders; this knowledge can prepare them for possible intervention and inspire them to educate their patients about prevention strategies.
Do you have symptoms of sleep apnea? Schedule an appointment now.
If you suffer from OSA, make sure your health care provider is on the alert for possible affective disorders. For more information, talk to an ear, nose and throat specialist in Huntsville or Madison.