Sleep Apnea and Psychiatric Disorders: Commonly Co-Occurring?


If you are suffering from depression or PTSD and sleep apnea, there is hope on the horizon!  Studies show that treatment of sleep apnea points to both an improvement in the sleep apnea and psychiatric symptoms.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine released findings of a recent systematic review assessing the predominance of sleep apnea in those with psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders. It found that sleep apnea is, in fact, associated with psychiatric conditions.

The presence of both psychiatric disease and sleep apnea simultaneously occurring within a patient was found to possibly affect the patient’s quality of life, as well as their adherence to CPAP treatment.  Therefore, in examining both the occurrence and treatment of sleep apnea in those with psychiatric disorders, the goal of this study was also to assess potential interventions.

The evaluation followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, and databases – the PubMed, EMBASE, and PsycINFO – were searched using keywords based on the ICD-9-CM coding for Obstructive Sleep Apnea and DSM-IV-TR diagnosis codes for psychiatric disorders.

Regardless of a diverse cross section and the probability of bias, the search, which pulled 47 records regarding studies of sleep apnea in the selected disorders, revealed that there may be an increase in the possibility of sleep apnea in those with major depressive disorder (MDD) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  However, there was insufficient evidence to prove an increase in the likelihood of sleep apnea occurring in individuals with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, bipolar and related disorders, or anxiety disorders other than PTSD.

While the findings show that the chance for sleep apnea may be increased in those suffering from depression and PTSD, further focused evaluation of sleep apnea in selected groups of psychiatric patients may provide more insight into the factors contributing to the co-occurrence of sleep apnea and psychiatric diseases. For those suffering from both sleep apnea and psychiatric conditions, treating both disorders should be considered for ideal results.

Here is the great news in all of this:  if you are suffering from a psychiatric condition and sleep apnea concurrently, making sure you use your CPAP properly has shown to improve your symptoms for both!