If you’ve ever struggled with insomnia (“it’s like a copy of a copy of a copy”), you probably are familiar with the impact of sleeplessness on your mental well-being- and if you’ve ever been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you know that sufferers often struggle to get a good night’s sleep.
So it probably didn’t come as much of a surprise to researchers that sleep apnea and depression displayed a significant link in a new Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study. A form of disordered sleep characterized by dangerously frequent lulls in breathing or “abnormally low” breathing, sleep apnea can be difficult for sufferers to identify- due to the fact that they are, for the most part, asleep or nearly so when symptoms occur. (Partners will often become aware of a sleep apnea sufferer’s symptoms before the actual patient does so.)
And oftentimes, sleep apnea sufferers are so tired due to unrestful sleep that they “sleep” through the episodes of less-optimal sleep, often experiencing near-constant exhaustion. The study’s lead author Anne Wheaton of the CDC explains:
“When a person stops breathing like this, they are momentarily brought out of deeper levels of sleep… They may not fully wake up, but they will not get the proper amount of rest.”
We know that sleep deficits from sleep apnea and other forms of disordered sleep can have a negative impact on mental health, but the study recently published in the medical journal Sleep sheds new light on the impact of sleep apnea on depression rates. Men suffering from sleep apnea were found to be twice as likely to suffer from depression as their well-rested counterparts, while women with the condition were found to have a stunning five-fold risk of depression symptoms.
Wheaton and her colleagues concluded that sleep is “essential, and healthy sleep should be as important as healthy nutrition, physical activity, and smoking cessation in promoting overall health.”