Northwest Face & Body

Study: Sleep Apnea is Commonly Misdiagnosed as Depression

Dr. Ludwig Allegra

July 14, 2023

A new study published in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggests that a strong link between sleep apnea and depression. Researchers at the University of Australia and Hospital of Perth found that obstructive sleep apnea may be frequently misdiagnosed as depression. Commonly under-diagnosed, sleep apnea and depression have many overlapping symptoms such as fatigue, an overall depressed mood, and lethargy.

By the Numbers

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs when breathing is interrupted repeatedly during sleep. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, it is estimated that at least 25 million Americans adults suffer from sleep apnea—as many as 80 percent of these cases may go undiagnosed. A staggering figure, it is believed two to four percent of all Americans have an undiagnosed form of sleep apnea.


A slightly lower but still astounding number, nearly 19 million American adults struggle with some form of depressive disorder. This makes up about 9.5% of the all adults in the U.S.

Study Says

Researchers set out to determine the prevalence of depressive symptoms in obstructive sleep apnea and whether the use of the common sleep apnea treatment, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, had an effect on the participant’s depressive symptoms.Of the 426 participants, 293 were diagnosed with sleep apnea. Of those, 73 percent also had symptoms of depression. The researchers measured the participant’s symptoms as they were treated with CPAP therapy for three months. Remarkably, only four percent (or, nine) of those who successfully completed the study continued to show clinically significant depressive symptoms. Another amazing influence of CPAP therapy: at the onset of the study, 41 of the participants had feelings of self-harm and hopelessness—at the end, none of these patients reported consistent suicidal tendencies.Researchers concluded, “depressive symptoms are common in obstructive sleep apnea and related to its severity. They improve markedly with CPAP, implying a relationship to untreated obstructive sleep apnea,” the researchers wrote in their study.

Sleep Apnea Treatment at Northwest Face

We are proud of our highly skilled team at Northwest Face. Experts in sleep apnea, our team of doctors may be able to help you. If you struggle with depression, we encourage you to be aware of common sleep apnea symptoms including:

  • Habitual snoring
  • Witnessed breathing pauses
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness.

As you are asleep, it can be difficult to realize that you are having difficulty breathing through the night.Please contact us if you have any questions regarding obstructive sleep apnea or if you find yourself questioning your depression diagnosis. We would love to sit down with you and discuss treatment options including CPAP therapy.


Dr. Ludwig Allegra

Dr. Ludwig Allegra has provided Bellevue, Kirkland, and the surrounding areas with premier plastic surgery procedures for over two decades.