A new article in the Scientific American sheds light on the connection between depression and sleep issues. We all know it can be hard to sleep (or, for some people to do anything but sleep) when we’re feeling sad, but this new evidence says that treating sleep problems (especially sleep apnea) can dramatically improve psychiatric symptoms in some patients.
There are quite a few recent studies that explore this connection between sleep habits and mental health. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed the medical records of almost 10,000 adults with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition, common in men, where you repeatedly stop breathing while you’re sleeping. The CDC found that men who had sleep apnea were twice as likely to also be diagnosed with depression, and that women were a full five times as likely. Researchers speculate that the oxygen deprived by sleep apnea could harm cells and disrupt normal brain functioning, contributing to psychiatric problems.
Another study, this one conducted by the Cleveland Clinic, found that using a sleep apnea breathing machine on over 779 people caused the people to score lower on a common depression survey. Yet another study found that about 25-50% of children and adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder experience sleep problems, and another report out of Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics in March found that adolescents who reported daytime drowsiness were also more likely to experience sadness.
Steven Y. Park, assistant professor of otolaryngology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine said:
The way I see it, you can’t consider a psychiatric disorder without thinking about a sleep-breathing problem.
So if you or someone you know is feeling depressed or sleeping poorly, it might be worth talking to your doctor about a possible connection about what’s going on in your brain and what’s going on (or not going on) in your bed.