Can CPAP Treatment Improve Sleep Apnea Patients’ Sex Lives?

A study may have found a connection between CPAP treatment and improved sex life for sleep apnea patients.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing is halted numerous times during sleep. With CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, sleep apnea patients wear a mask that gives extra pressure with each breath. It is designed to cut down on these breathing disturbances.

Previous research has shown a correlation between sleep apnea and sexual dysfunction. This can include erectile dysfunction in men and painful intercourse and lack of arousal in women.

However, the new study found that those sleep apnea subjects who used their CPAP machine more than four hours a night reported better sexual quality of life.

While there was little difference between male subjects who used their CPAP machines and those who did not, women who regularly used their CPAP machines reported an improvement in their sex lives.

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if people have questions related to their personal health.]

A woman sleeps with a sleeping machinesbw18/Shutterstock

We spoke with the study’s lead author, Dr. Sebastian M. Jara. He explained, “After accounting for other factors that can affect sexual quality of life — such as other medical conditions — we found, overall, that CPAP users experienced a greater improvement in sexual quality of life than the CPAP non-users.”

The Study: Methods And Findings

During the study, which was published in the JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery journal, researchers worked with 182 subjects struggling with “severe” obstructive sleep apnea.

Jara and his colleagues gave the subjects a questionnaire at the beginning of treatment and again one year later. Two of the 25 questions addressed sex drive and sex life.

In reference to “Because of medical problem unable to have sexual relations” and “Lack of desire for sexual relations,” the patients were asked to answer on a scale of 0 to 5. Zero meant “No problem,” and 5 meant “Problem as bad as it can be.”

Out of the 182-person cohort, 72 said they used their CPAP machine more than four hours a night, while 110 did not. Out of the group who used CPAP regularly, many reported an improvement in their sex lives.

A couple hugs outside.Ivanko80/Shutterstock

It should be noted that those who saw their sex lives improve were mostly all women. Men in the study did not report a significant change in their quality of sex life.

Jara told Mattress Clarity that these results are interesting when considering other research. “With regards to sexual function, CPAP has been shown to improve sexual function in men in several studies. In particular, there is evidence that CPAP treatment can improve erectile dysfunction in male sleep apnea patients with erectile dysfunction.”

Further Research Is Needed

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep apnea affects more than 18 million American adults. In addition to affecting sexual function, the foundation says sleep apnea may be correlated with serious health risks including hypertension, heart disease, and other ailments.

Jerome A. Dempsey, Ph.D., director of the John Rankin Laboratory of Pulmonary Medicine, told Mattress Clarity about the health dangers associated with sleep apnea. “There’s a lot of speculation, but two that we know the most about are the effects on blood pressure and daytime sleepiness and vigilance,” he said. “People with significant amounts of sleep apnea have seven times more car accidents.”

With regard to the connection between sleep apnea and sex life, Jara says more research is needed. “In future studies, it will be important to study more comprehensive measures of sexual quality of life in sleep apnea patients,” says Jara. “This will include both a more extensive assessment of sexual quality of life in patients themselves and effects on their bed partners.”

In addition, Jara says other sleep apnea treatments should be considered in connection with sexual quality of life. “It will be important to test the effects of other sleep apnea treatments, such as surgery or oral appliance use,” he explains. “Although CPAP is the first-line treatment for sleep apnea, it can be cumbersome to wear and might adversely affect intimacy and sexual quality of life compared to other treatments.”

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if people have questions related to their personal health.]

Featured image: pathdoc/Shutterstock

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Marten Carlson

Marten is a staff writer for Mattress Clarity News. He covers the mattress industry as well as sleep science news. He is specifically interested in the connection between sleep and overall health. Marten has written for media publications like Consequence of Sound and received a master’s degree in Film Studies from Emory University. He comes from Franklin, Indiana, and spends all the time he can writing, directing, and acting in films. He has directed genre short films and features. His newest film, Starlets, recently premiered at the River Town Film Festival in Clinton, NJ. He also stars in the upcoming thriller, Sour Bear. His next film, At The Hop, is a hot rod actioner with a horror twist.