Have you ever felt sad or depressed during the day and weren't sure why?
The next time that happens ask yourself how much sleep you got the night before. Better yet, ask yourself how much sleep you've been getting overall.
And if you suffer from sleep apnea, you really want to ask yourself these questions.
Exploring the link
Researchers at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center recently took a closer look at the link between sleep apnea and depression and looked into how even small amounts of light can throw off a good night's sleep a great deal.
Dr. Ulysses Magalang, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Wexner Medical System, said nearly 50% of folks with sleep apnea live with depression.
"We know that approximately half of all patients with obstructive sleep apnea also suffer from depression and anxiety," he said. "And we aren't exactly sure why."
Magalang and his research team conducted an experiment using lab mice, to get a better understanding of how sleep apnea patients can sleep better.
At the conclusion of the experiment the researchers said even the dimmest of lights can cause a sleep apnea patient to suffer. And they're not just talking about the TV and laptop being kept on.
Magalang and his team said even the small dots of light on your cable box or other electronics can throw off sleep and cause depression.
In addition, people with sleep apnea should avoid using digital alarm clocks, since most give off light and can cause a distraction. In fact, anyone who wants a good night's sleep should follow these instructions.
"Light at night -- even low levels of light -- might actually suppress the secretion of melatonin," said Magalang.
Dr. Shelby Freedman Harris, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, says in order for your brain to release melatonin, you'll have to make some preparations.
"In the sleep field we like to call [melatonin] the 'hormone of darkness,' " said Harris in an informational video. "Melatonin helps us to get sleepy and fall asleep at night. So when the sun goes down and it gets dark, melatonin starts to come out and we start to get sleepy."
And there are a lot of things that can disrupt that sleepy feeling, she says.
"If you are sitting in bright light in your bedroom or you're just playing with a computer or an iPad or you're watching TV, all those things can inhibit the ability for melatonin to come out and therefore make you not as sleepy when you want to go to bed at night," Harris explained.
The seriousness of apnea
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, there are more than 20 million adults who are living with sleep apnea but don't know it, and besides depression, sleep apnea can lead to diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and other serious conditions.
If you're not sure if you have sleep apnea, Dr. Rod Willey, of the Illinois Institute of Dental Sleep Medicine, says getting someone to monitor your sleep is your best bet.
Wiley says that it's often a family member who observes that a spouse or partner stops breathing or snores loudly. Both can be signs of apnea.
In addition, Willey says it's not the snoring that people should be concerned about when it comes to sleep apnea, they should be worried about what happens after the snoring.
"Snoring is usually followed by a moment of silence," he said. "It's that moment of silence that we have to worry about, because that's when you actually must start breathing again. And after that moment of silence is over, that's usually followed by a cough or a gasp or a snorting or something -- or more snoring."
Willey says the snoring, followed by the silence and coughing can happen hundreds of times throughout the night for a person with sleep apnea, so grabbing a family member to watch you sleep is the best route that you can take. If you live alone, recording yourself sleeping might not be a bad idea.
Magalang says his team isn't 100% sure of how strong the link is between sleep apnea and depression, but the link does exist.
A good night's sleep
By just removing some of the small and subtle lights in a room, sleep apnea patients, and other folks, will be able to sleep better and lower the chances of depression setting in.
"Although it is unclear at the present time whether sleep apnea causes depression, both conditions are commonly seen together in patients," said Magalang. "Our research suggests that sleeping even with a minimum amount of light may increase symptoms of depression in those with sleep apnea.
"The combination of dim light exposure and sleep apnea appears to result in increased depressive and anxiety-like behaviors in mice, so limiting exposure to light at night could be a very simple strategy to help patients with sleep apnea. We're currently exploring further testing."
In addition, Magalang says for the best sleep, use drapes that will completely darken the room, as some drapes still allow a little light to get through. And obviously, all electronics should be turned off as you're getting ready to shut down for the night.
Lastly, Magalang says to choose clocks or night lights with red lighting instead of blue or green lighting, since blue and green lights can cause more distraction.
Have you ever felt sad or depressed during the day and weren't sure why?The next time that happens ask yourself how much sleep you got the night before. Be...