A study published in the September edition of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine is suggesting that people are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea usually showcase symptoms of depression. Researchers conducting the study found that people suffering from depression experience noticeable improvements in their symptoms after undergoing continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy for sleep apnea.

During the study, it was found that almost 73% (213 out of 293) of people suffering from sleep apnea experience clinically significant symptoms of depression. The intensity of those symptoms is equal both among men and women. The researchers also noticed that the intensity of depressive symptoms kept on growing independently and consistently as the severity of sleep apnea increased.

However, it was found that the clinically important symptoms of depression stayed on in just 4% (9 out of 228 patients) of the sleep apnea patients who underwent CPAP therapy continuously for three months.

A group of 41 patients who reported baseline feeling of being dead or self-harm also underwent CPAP therapy for three months. During the follow-up after three months of treatment, it was found that none of them reported consistent suicidal tendencies.

David R. Hillman, the study’s senior author and a sleep physician at the Perth, Australia-based Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, said that treating obstructive sleep apnea effectively lead to significant improvement in suicidal ideation and several other symptoms of depression. He added that these findings show how likely it is that sleep apnea gets misdiagnosed as depression.

For those who don’t know: obstructive sleep apnea or OSA is a frequently occurring sleep disorder and according to information provided by The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, right now the United States is home to at least 25 million adults with the condition. Sleep apnea, if left untreated, can increase the patient’s chances of developing other chronic health issues such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and depression.

The authors of this new study are saying that results presented by the study show that it is extremely important to screen individuals experiencing symptoms of depression for OSA. According to them, patients experiencing such symptoms must be asked about common symptoms of sleep apnea, for instance, disrupted sleep, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, breathing pauses, etc.