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Treating Serious Snoring May Ease Depression

When snoring is due to sleep apnea, using CPAP may also help symptoms of depression.

Obstructive sleep apnea affects tens of millions of Americans. In this condition the airway is briefly but repeatedly closed off, leading to gasping or snoring as a way of re-establishing air flow.

Sleep apnea can complicate conditions such as hypertension, heart disease or diabetes. It may affect as many as 5 % of adults, and is especially common among older people and the overweight.


There are no medications for sleep apnea, but it is treated with medical devices. Most common is the CPAP machine, providing continuous positive airway pressure (see picture). Some people are treated with a mandibular advancement device, which moves the lower jaw forward to improve breathing through the mouth.

A meta-analysis of 23 studies found that CPAP treatment alleviated symptoms of depression as well as sleep apnea. People who were depressed at the beginning of the study got the most noticeable response.

The studies also found benefit from the mandibular advancement devices, but the response was modest. The investigators suggest that doctors will need more research to select the patients who will benefit most from sleep apnea treatment.

[PLoS Medicine, online Nov. 25, 2014]

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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