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Sleep Apnea Affects Sexuality, Intimacy

Patients who are treated for their sleep apnea may see an improvement their sex lives.
By Linda Little
WebMD Health News

May 25, 2005 (San Diego) -- Patients who are treated for their sleep apnea may see an improvement their sex lives.

"It could be that they are less tired once the sleep apnea is being treated," says Terri E. Weaver, RN, PhD, associate professor and chairwoman of the biobehavioral and health sciences division at the University of Pennsylvania. She presented her findings at the American Thoracic Society annual meeting.

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person's airway collapses and breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night. Loud snoring -- a hallmark of the condition -- occurs when the airway collapses.

One of the most common treatments for sleep apnea is called CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). The patient wears a mask over the nose and/or mouth. An air blower forces air through the upper airway. This prevents the upper airway tissue from collapsing during sleep.

Treatment Makes the Difference

Sleep apnea patients who were treated with CPAP for six hours each night had a reduction in daytime sleepiness and fatigue and an increase in intimacy and sexuality, researchers report.

It is clear that participants with sleep apnea had a decrease in intimacy and sexual relations, says Andrew L. Ries, MD, professor of medicine and family and preventive medicine at the University of California in San Diego.

"But it appears that the major difference is whether the patients were complying with treatment or not complying," he says. "One of the big problems in the treatment of sleep apnea is getting people to accept it and stay with it."

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