A Link Between Psychiatry and Sleep Apnea?

Snoring and Psychiatry

It sounds rather crazy (no pun intended) but a hospital Salt Lake City, Utah started a pilot program designed to test their psychiatric patients for sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea is a condition where someone that snores heavily stops breathing for moments at a time due to airway obstruction.  (The definition of apnea is “the absence of breath.”)  In compiling the statistics that were gathered during the implementation of their new program, they found some surprising results.

There are similarities between some of the symptoms of sleep apnea and some psychiatric conditions.  Those symptoms include chronic fatigue, inappropriate times of sleepiness, irritability, and insomnia.  Given the similar symptoms, it made sense to begin testing their patients to find out if they were at risk for sleep apnea.  It was found that 56% of those tested had abnormal oximetry results (oxygen monitoring), meaning that they were diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea.  Treating those patients for sleep apnea more than likely alleviated some of the symptoms of their psychiatric conditions as well.

The psychiatric patient screening was done through a simple eight-question survey asking for yes or no answers that asked about snoring, tiredness, body mass index, age over 50 and a large neck circumference. The given answers to the questions determined whether the patient was at risk for sleep apnea and gave an indication as to whether the patient needed additional treatment.  In treating the sleep apnea problem, the patients were then able to focus more on their mood or associative problems.

It was noted that those patients would have gone undiagnosed for their sleep apnea problems if the routine screening for the condition had not been implemented.  That means that they would still be suffering the effects of the problem as well as their psychiatric condition.

Please post your opinion of these findings, as well as any experience you have with these studies or treatements.