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Sleep Apnea Treatments Help Reduce Depression Symptoms

By Stephanie Corkett, NAMI Communications Intern

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A new study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center confirms that positive airway pressure, a treatment for patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), also lessens symptoms of depression.

Researchers found that patients who used continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) showed reduced signs of their depression symptoms even if they only partially followed a treatment plan.

OSA is a sleep-related breathing disorder where the body stops breathing during the night due to collapsed tissues in the back of the throat which block the airway. This results in disturbed sleep which could lead to serious health issues including heart disease and stroke. The most common treatment for OSA is CPAP which is delivered through a mask worn over the face of the patient.

[Check out NAMI’s updated information on sleep apnea.]

Results showed that all subjects saw improvements in depressive symptoms and patients who used their CPAP devices for more than four hours showed even greater improvements on their scores than others who didn’t follow their treatment schedule as strictly.

“The score improvements remained significant even after taking into account whether a patient had a prior diagnosis of depression or was taking an antidepressant,” said Charles Bae, M.D., head investigator of the study in a news release. “The improvements were greatest in sleepy, adherent patients but even nonadherent patients had better scores.”

This study was presented at the annual meeting of the Associate Professional Sleep Societies in Boston.

“Getting a good night’s sleep is protective of the brain,” says NAMI Medical Director Ken Duckworth, M.D. “Evidence suggests that good sleep and a regular routine help protect against the recurrence of mania.” For a better night’s sleep Duckworth recommends cutting down on alcohol and caffeine as well as skipping afternoon naps.

For more information about better sleep techniques, view Duckworth’s article in NAMI’s Advocate.

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