Researchers out of the University of Calgary, Canada, released a study that shows it may be possible to treat depression and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) with the same treatment. Certain devices that are normally used for treating OSA have been found to also alleviate symptoms of depression, according to the study. These machines, the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and the mandibular advancement devices (MADs), help patients during sleep by keeping them breathing properly and avoiding those moment where OSA blocks the airways and stops the person from breathing for a moment; this moment can last a few seconds before the body “awakes” just enough to push through the blockage to start the breathing process again.

The researchers studied 22 randomized clinical volunteers, each diagnosed with sleep apnea and showing signs of depressive symptoms. Of those who were using the CPAP and MAD devices to help with their sleep apnea, each person showed signs of improving their depressive symptoms, according to the questionnaires filled out before, throughout, and after the trial period. Those who did not treat their sleep apnea, or who were treating it with methods besides the CPAP or MAD device, did not show many signs of improvement in their depressive symptoms. This data was cross-referenced with the known literature on sleep apnea treatment and depression, as there seems to be a connection between people with OSA and the depression a majority of them report to experience. One thing the researchers knowingly could not take into consideration with this kind of study was how much non-OSA treatments help with depressive symptoms, like depression medications and therapy, when used in conjunction with the OSA treatments. More studies are needed to learn the connections of these different types of treatments.

The results of this study further affirms that there are benefits to the CPAP and MAD devices that are greater than only helping the person breathe normally throughout the night. The depressive symptoms which seem to be strongly connected to sleep apnea, and the inability to sleep properly throughout the night, are alleviated due to a person being able to both breathe all throughout the night and being able to achieve uninterrupted sleep for several hours at a time. And, the study further revealed, the worse a person’s depression is before the treatment, the more improvement the treatment is on their depressive symptoms. As the main author of this Canadian study says, “This systematic review summarizes the available literature on OSA treatment,” further adding that this could be a novel way to treat depression and Obstructive Sleep Apnea together. “Our results,” he said, “illustrate that the greatest benefit of CPAP treatment on depressive symptoms may occur in populations with worse depression scores at baseline.”