This sleep apnea therapy may help treat depression

In a new study, researchers found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) could help improve depression symptoms.

This is by far the largest trial of its type and one of the very few studies reporting such an effect.

The research was conducted by a team from Flinders University.

Patients who have had a stroke or heart attack are prone to suffer from low mood and are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop clinical depression.

This then further elevates their risk of future heart attacks and strokes.

About up to 50% of patients with heart disease likely to have OSA.

In the study, the team examined data from the Sleep Apnea Cardiovascular Endpoints (SAVE) trial, which involved 2687 OSA patients.

After following them for an average of 3.7 years, the team found a big decrease in cases of depression after patients received CPAP treatment for their sleep apnea.

CPAP provided significant reductions in depression symptoms compared with those who were not treated for OSA.

The improvement for depression was apparent within six months and was sustained.

In addition, those with lower mood scores to start with appeared to get the greatest benefit.

The researchers say that CPAP for moderate-severe OSA in patients with heart disease has broader benefits in terms of preventing depression, independent of improved sleepiness.

The finding shows that treatment of OSA substantially relieves cardiovascular patients’ depressive symptoms and improves their wellbeing.

The team also did a systematic review of previously published research and found that the findings provided further support of the treatment effect of CPAP for depression.

One author of the study is Professor Doug McEvoy from Flinders University.

The study is published in EClinicalMedicine.

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