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Nancy Schimelpfening

Sleep Apnea Treatment Helps Depression

By November 6, 2007

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A treatment called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) can improve depression symptoms in those with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to new research published in the October 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

OSA is a medical condition in which patients may temporarily stop breathing while asleep due to soft tissue in the back of the throat relaxing and blocking the airway. Being overweight can cause sleep apnea.

Patients with OSA are generally treated using a CPAP machine, which involves wearing a mask that continuously blows air into the throat to prevent the tissues from collapsing and blocking the airway.

The authors noted in their report that patients with OSA often suffer from depression. In a previous study, the authors had found a significant improvement in depression test scores after the initiation of CPAP therapy. In the current study, in which the same patients were reassessed a year after CPAP therapy had begun, the authors found that ongoing CPAP therapy was associated with sustained improvement in depression symptoms.

In an interview with Reuters Health, study author Dr. Daniel J. Schwartz remarked that, "It is possible that at least some patients being treated with antidepressant medications -- those whose symptoms are due to obstructive sleep apnea -- might be better served with CPAP therapy."

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