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Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea Improves Mental Health


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Yet another study has shown a clear link between getting screened and treated for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and better mental health.  Scientists at the University of Turku in Finland studied patients diagnosed with sleep apnea and followed them for three years after diagnosis. All patients were screened for depression and anxiety at the start of the study.   Some patients quickly gave up on CPAP therapy, others complied.   After three years, the researchers found that the patients who complied with their OSA treatments had less daytime sleepiness, better sleep quality, and much lower rates of depression and anxiety compared to their initial reports.

This is more evidence for the way that sleep, and lack of healthy sleep, can affect our mental health.  As outlined in Airway is Life, the brain needs healthy, uninterrupted sleep for good mental health.  When sleep apnea triggers microarousals, it can’t heal from the demands of the day. 

 As a result, the effects of not sleeping well can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Social Isolation
  • Poor Memory
  • Poor Self-Control
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Manic Episodes
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Chronic Pain

In cases where depression or anxiety is caused by a blocked airway and frequent awakening, opening the airway heals the brain and changes lives.   This is especially true for people who suffer from 'treatment-resistant depression.'  If an underlying cause of your depression or anxiety is poor sleep, the sleep needs to be fixed before your depression can respond to medications or therapy.  And this connection doesn't just affect adults.  69% of teens with depression have sleep issues that come first.  In many cases, poor sleep is causing depression and anxiety.

If you or someone you love suffers from depression anxiety, talk to your dentist or primary care physician about screening for sleep-disordered breathing and completing a sleep study. Sometimes, depression and anxiety are your brain screaming out for help because something is wrong with your body.  If sleep-disordered breathing is the underlying cause of your problems, treating the sleep disorder can treat the mental illness.