Sleep Disorders

23 October 2014

Can sleep apnoea affect your sex life?

Many patients who use CPAP for sleep apnoea believe it makes them less sexually attractive, which may make them less likely to comply with treatment.

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Your sex life is unlikely to suffer because of sleep apnoea treatment, according to a new study.

People with sleep apnoea experience periods of disrupted breathing throughout sleep. This can lead to daytime fatigue, high blood pressure and other health conditions.

The gold standard of sleep apnoea treatment involves going to bed wearing a mask or nosepiece with a hose that's attached to a machine that provides a steady stream of air to keep the airways open during sleep. This is called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

Many patients who use CPAP believe it makes them less sexually attractive, which may make them less likely to comply with treatment, according to the researchers from Rosalind Franklin University in Chicago.

Read more: Sleep apnoea treatment may boost sex life

To find out more about how CPAP affects patients' sex lives, the researchers surveyed 52 patients who were prescribed the treatment. Of those patients, 27 were compliant (meaning they used CPAP more than four hours a night on 70 percent of nights) and 25 were not compliant.

All were asked 10 questions related to physical and emotional aspects of lovemaking, the researchers said.

After adjusting for other factors, the investigators found that compliant and non-compliant patients had similar sexual quality-of-life scores.

Read more: Link between depression and sleep apnoea

The findings, published in the journal Chest, will be presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians in Austin, Texas.

"This study suggests that CPAP compliance does not impair sexual quality of life in patients with sleep apnoea," Dr. Mark Rosen, medical director of the college, said in an association news release.

Erectile dysfunction is common in men with sleep apnoea, but previous research has shown that CPAP improves erectile dysfunction in these patients, according to the college.

Read more:

A fat tongue may be disrupting your sleep
Sleep apnoea treatment effective for older people
A battle for breath

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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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