Is Your Intimate Relationship Suffering Due to Untreated Sleep Apnea?

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By Eugena Brooks

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Is Your Intimate Relationship Suffering Due to Untreated Sleep Apnea? 8

February has long been the month of romance. As we approach the holiday of love on Valentine’s Day, it can be noted that not everyone is able to express affection in a meaningful or physically-intimate way.  The side effects of untreated sleep apnea such as fatigue, high blood pressure, risk of heart disease and stroke are well-known. But one thing that’s not as widely documented is the impact sleep apnea has on sexual relations. However, that is changing.

Certainly, some medical problems or medications can lead to problems with sex drive, or libido. In considering that untreated sleep apnea sleep apnea may reduce sexual quality of life (QOL) because of reduced libido and intimacy, erectile dysfunction, and several other mechanisms. People who suffer from sleep debt due to untreated sleep disorders can also experience poor moods, mental health issues, not to mention exhaustion. What’s more, both men and women can become less in tune or cognizant of needs of their partners.

Sleep apnea may rob both partners of the desire to be intimate and the ability to have sex. Neither of you can get a good night’s sleep when one partner can’t rest for the snoring and the other because of constant waking from the breathing disturbances. Add to that a full workday followed by family obligations and it’s a wrap. Relationship struggles are inevitable.

The latest study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine compared 80 women ages 28 to 64 who have sleep apnea with 240 women without the disorder and found the women with apnea had significantly higher rates of sexual dysfunction. A 2009 study reported that 70 percent of 401 men with suspected sleep apnea also had erectile dysfunction. What’s more, snoring is estimated to be the third most common cause of divorce in the United States and Great Britain.

In a study at the University of California at Berkeley, researchers evaluated poor sleep and its impact on marital relationships. “Poor sleep may make us more selfish, as we prioritize our own needs over our partner’s,” according to, Amie Gordon, lead investigator and psychologist. The data suggests that disrupted sleep leaves couples less in tune and aware of the moods and needs of their partners.

However, the good news is that OSA treatment can make a difference.  CPAP therapy, oral appliance therapy, weight loss, avoiding smoking and regular exercise improve sleep apnea.

According to a research study published in mid- 2018 by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, successful use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) may be associated with improved sexual QOL. There were 182 participants in the study. Investigators concluded that further study is warranted to test other measures of sexual QOL and other treatments.

Although more research is needed, this is a start to realizing that treatment for sleep apnea improves issues related to sexual dysfunction, a boon to private and intimate lives.


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  • Shannon

    He snores, i don’t sleep or end up on the couch. He doesn’t get it, thinks i don’t want sex, but i am so exhausted i hate it.

    • Cat

      Ditto here and I make him go to the couch since he’s the one snoring so loud. My brother had to go out of town with him for work and called me the first night. He asked me if I was aware of my husband’s sleeping disorder and I told him yes, very aware of it. He started calling him sleeping bear and nobody will share a room with him. He thinks I’m cheating on him because I’m so happy when he has to leave town. He doesn’t think it’s a problem and that he sleeps just fine.🤦‍♀️

    • Nay

      You are not alone. Going through the exact same thing. I’m at my wits end. The thought of sex just disgusts me at this point.

    • Eugena Brooks

      What’s the harm in getting checked out? We all know that NOT getting checked leads to issues getting worse or untreatable. So it’s a matter of being safe instead of sorry.

  • Nicole

    I’m a light sleeper and my boyfriend has sleep apnea. I work opposite shifts because I cannot sleep in the same apartment with his snoring. Refuses to go see a doctor. Continues to smoke, drink to excess, and not exercise. Gee, I wonder why we don’t have sex often.🤔

  • Eileen Benson

    It was interesting when you discussed the relationship between sleep apnea and erectile dysfunction. My husband has been having problems in the bedroom lately. I’m glad I read your article so I can encourage him to get treatment for his ED and sleep apnea.

  • Randy Chorvack

    It makes sense that you said that people who don’t get enough sleep can experience poor moods and mental health issues because sleep is really important to our functioning. If you don’t have enough energy to get through the day, it can considerably ruin your mood. My wife has sleep apnea and it’s really getting her down so I want to get her help for it as soon as possible.

  • Daphne Gilpin

    I was surprised when you said that 70% of the men in the study had erectile dysfunction in addition to their sleep apnea. My husband started struggling with erectile dysfunction about two months ago. I never considered that it might be related to his snoring and sleep apnea, so thanks for sharing that information here!

  • Marcia

    My partner has been diagnosed with severe sleep apnoea. He gets frustrated with the machine he has been given to help keep his airway open and won’t use it. I am the one who has the sleep on the sofa bed and I have back and hip problems which are made worse because of this. He does not work so can catch up on his sleep during the day while I’m at work trying to deal with a stressful job with hardly any sleep. I feel a lot is said about the effects on the sufferer eg they should not drive etc. But I feel it is worse for the partner as the sufferer is unaware of their waking and continue to sleep. Whereas when the partner is woken by the sufferer gasping loudly for breath they are jolted awake and find it difficult to drift back to sleep. This turns to anger and frustration which makes it even worse! Should I be driving when I feel I am affected more severely and get less sleep than my partner with sleep apnoea?