How Sleep Apnea Can Wreck Your Sex Life and How to Change That

Is Your Intimate Relationship Suffering Due to Untreated Sleep Apnea?

How Sleep Apnea Can Wreck Your Sex Life and How to Change That

12 Feb

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Category: News

By Eugena Brooks

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.


The sleep problem that can kill your sex life, and lead to divorce

How Sleep Apnea Can Wreck Your Sex Life and How to Change That

Sleep is arguably the most important part of your day. It not only helps to restore and maintain our immune, skeletal, muscular and nervous systems but maintains our mental performance, mood, memory and even sexual health.

With the over-stimulating rigors of day-to-day activities, poor lifestyle choices (we see you third coffee,) deadlines and our obsession with technology (hello, Instagram,) it seems harder and harder to clock eight hours.

But beyond environmental factors, there’s a host of medical conditions that can affect our sleep. The most common? Obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep what now?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) involves repeated episodes of partial or complete blockage of the upper airway that last for 10 seconds or longer. As a result, blood oxygen levels drop.

This causes you to wake, often subconsciously so that breathing can return to normal. These interruptions can have a profound negative effect on sleep quality and can occur hundreds of times during a given night.

Often, you have no idea that these events are happening during sleep.

The most common characteristics? Snoring and tooth grinding, which makes sufferers more susceptible to cracked teeth, headaches and jaw pain. Similarly, people who suffer from sleep apnea are also more ly to be very tired and stressed, which can also result in repeated poor diet choices to provide a short-term hit of energy. And so the cycle continues.

While snoring doesn’t sound a big deal, it can lead to serious health issues. Sleep apnea leaves you more susceptible to stroke, heart attacks, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety, motor vehicle accidents and poor performance at work.

So how does it affect your sex life?

Besides increasing the risk of a range of serious medical conditions, sleep apnea can also have a profound effect on sexual health.

It has been shown to cause a loss of libido in women and erectile dysfunction in men. With good quality sleep, testosterone is usually produced in abundance and consequently, sexual health is maintained.

However, with sleep apnea, hormonal levels drop and sexual dysfunction can occur.

What’s more, snoring is one of the leading causes of divorce. Constant interruption of sleep can place undue strain on relationships due to a lack of rest. A University of California study found that poor sleep can make us more selfish and focus on our own needs rather than the needs of our partners. Makes sense.

What steps can you take to solve it?

Diagnosed by a sleep study, the doctor then governs whether it’s mild, moderate or severe, which helps determine treatment.

It may be as simple as a combination of lifestyle changes such as diet swaps, weight loss, avoiding smoking and alcohol and adjusting your sleeping position. A splint (which holds the lower jaw and tongue forward and opens the airway) may also be prescribed. As a last line of treatment, surgery may be necessary.

The bottom line

In an average lifetime, we sleep for around 25 years in total, so it’s important to be sleeping well. If you aren’t resting easy, seeing your GP or a dentist that is trained in sleep medicine is one of the best ways to identify if there’s a problem with your sleep – and to help you do something about it.

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16 Things That Sink Your Sex Drive

How Sleep Apnea Can Wreck Your Sex Life and How to Change That

Sex used to be so simple (if you don't count birth control, STDs, and unplanned pregnancy). But as life gets more complicated, so does your sex drive.

Whereas once you were ready to go at the drop of a hat (or pants, as the case may be), there are a number of emotional, physical, and psychological concerns that can easily dampen your drive.

We talked to a handful of experts and compiled this list of the 16 biggest libido busters. Find out if one is, ahem, coming between you and the sex life you deserve.

RELATED: Your lack of sex drive may be due to a hormonal imbalance. Learn about the supplement that offers a promising fix!

Six Hours of Sleep

We are a nation of chronically sleep-deprived adults. This is not only affecting our looks, health, and ability to deal with everyday stressors, it's also killing our sex drive. According to Dr. Robert D.

Oexman, Director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, MO, chronic sleep deprivation, which can occur even if you get a solid six hours a night (the majority of adults need at least seven), can lower levels of testosterone-the sex drive hormone-in both men and women.


Chronic snoring not only interrupts the snorer's sleep, but also the person sleeping beside them. Suffering from sleep apnea, a condition that causes abnormal breathing throughout the night, can also result in chronic sleep deprivation, which not only affects sex drive but can also increases appetite, leading to weight gain, Dr. Oexman says.

A Chronically Blue Mood

Depression is a common cause of poor sex drive and, in classic chicken and egg fashion, is often a reason for poor sleep quality. Not to mention that it can cause weight gain, leading to other libido-dampening medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, Dr. Oexman says.

Jeans You Can't Yank Past Mid-Thigh

If the jeans you wore in college (or even last year) won't go past mid thigh, there's a good chance you've gone up two full pant sizes-about 20 extra pounds. Not loving how you look naked certainly won't help your sex drive, plus those health conditions associated with weight gain can interfere with sex drive, adding insult to injury.

A Not-so-Healthy Heart

As any red-blooded male knows all too well, the penis is full of veins, and, according to Cully Carson, MD, a Rhodes distinguished professor of Urology at the University of North Carolina, one of the first things doctors check for when a patient complains of erectile dysfunction (ED) is underlying vascular disease or heart problems.

If your arteries aren't up to snuff, it can inhibit blood flow to the genital area, resulting in weak erections. High cholesterol and high blood pressure can also cause ED.

Your Medicine Cabinet

Ironically, some of the drugs used to treat the conditions that decrease sex drive (the SSRI family of depression medications, some high blood pressure meds) can dampen it on their own.

“Any drug that affects the central nervous system can impact sex drive,” Dr. Carson says.

Your Neck

At the base of your throat is the thyroid gland, which regulates metabolism via thyroid hormones.

According to Karen Boyle, MD, a urologic surgeon at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and an expert in male and female sexual health, an abnormal thyroid can significantly decrease sex drive, especially in post-menopausal women.

Depending on the type of thyroid abnormality, it could also lead to weight gain, which (hello chicken and egg) can mess with your sex drive as well.

Weekday Warrior Syndrome

sleep deprivation, anything that causes chronic, low-grade fatigue can lower sex hormones and increase appetite. In this case, excess exercise. While this is not a huge problem for most people, trying to work a full day then hitting the gym every night after work can result in the same libido-sapping exhaustion as skimping on sleep, Dr. Boyle says.

Your Smart Phone

Unless you're using it to watch a racy movie together (which we don't recommend on such a small screen), technology in the bedroom is a guaranteed sex killer, says Sharon Gilchrest O'Neill, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage.

“Laptops and smart phones just distract you from each other, and it's nearly impossible to get your head in the right place for sex when two seconds ago you were responding to an email from your boss,” she says.

Smoking and Drinking

On Mad Men, Don and Roger can drink straight bourbon all day long, smoke cigarettes, and successfully seduce every woman in sight. Which is why it's a TV show. According to Dr.

Carson, smoking, a killer not just for your heart and lungs but for vein health as well, is one of the worst things you can do to your sex drive, and to a lesser extent drinking (mostly to excess- Mad Men), which can reduce sensitivity and the ability to achieve orgasm in both men and women.

No Vacation Since 2007

Living is stressful. And if you're living together, you're also stressing together. Of the emotional sources of low libido, stress is probably sexual enemy number one, whatever its root cause. The cure (at least temporarily) is to get away from the stress, aka take a vacation. Because they don't call it vacation sex for nothin'.

“Dressing” too Far Left (or Right)

This classic tailor euphemism for the direction in which a man's penis curves could indicate a condition known as Peyronie's disease, in which scar tissue (typically from damage caused during intercourse) results in a painful curvature of the penis-not the sexiest situation we can think of. Luckily the condition is pretty easily corrected with oral medication and injections.

The Baby in the Next Room

Add up the sleep deprivation, the fluctuating hormones, the post-pregnancy weight, the worry, and you've got a recipe for seriously low libido, O'Neill says. And according to Dr. Boyle, childbirth itself can cause vaginal changes including tears, decreased sensitivity, and vaginal laxity that can make it difficult to achieve orgasm, or even become aroused at all.

That Fight from Three Weeks Ago

Unresolved anger is one of the biggest issues O'Neill sees in her practice, especially in long-term relationships.

When anger and resentment simmer for days or even weeks on end, these feelings can come to the surface in the bedroom, when external forces (kids, friends, coworkers) are removed, and it's hard to feel attracted to your partner when you're stewing over something, O'Neill says. Women will often sweep the fight under the rug to keep the peace, which can chip away at sex drive, she adds.

A Sloppy Spouse

This one may be a no-brainer. While you're supposed to love each other through thick and thin, if one partner has gone from thin to thick, it's perfectly normal for attraction to wane.

Extra-Marital Flirting

It's not harmful if no one gets touched, right? Actually, the “emotional affair” and flirtation that takes place at work, in your social circle, on , even on Pinterest (though we're not sure how that would work) is detrimental because it's taking time and energy away from your partner, which are both essential to keeping passion alive and well, O'Neill explains.


Men using CPAP see improvement in sexual function, satisfaction

How Sleep Apnea Can Wreck Your Sex Life and How to Change That

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: 12:01 a.m. EDT, June 13, 2012
CONTACT: Thomas Heffron, 630-737-9700, ext. 9327,

DARIEN, IL – Men who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are seeing another potential benefit from continuous positive airway pressure therapy, or CPAP: improved sexual function and satisfaction in non-diabetic men under age 60.

A study Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., assessed the erectile function and libido of 92 men who were newly diagnosed with OSA and starting CPAP therapy.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is common in OSA patients, and nearly half of the men in the Walter Reed study reported the presence of ED.

Patients were assessed again after one, three and six months of CPAP therapy.

The results show that CPAP improved the sexual function and satisfaction in the majority of men in the study regardless of their level of erectile function reported at the very start. Those with ED had more robust improvements and even many without ED reported improved sexual function and satisfaction.

“We were surprised at how prevalent ED is in a relatively young population of men with sleep apnea. The average age was 45,” said Joseph Dombrowsky, MD, the study’s primary investigator. “But we were similarly surprised at how robust a clinically significant response the men had with CPAP therapy.”

OSA is a sleep-related breathing disorder that occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway, causing the body to stop breathing during sleep. OSA disrupts sleep and can increase the risk of other health problems such as heart disease and stroke.

CPAP is the most common and effective treatment for OSA. The steady flow of air from a CPAP machine keeps the airway open and restores normal oxygen levels during sleep. This helps maintain a steady, healthy level of breathing through the night.

The abstract “The prevalence of erectile dysfunction and impact of CPAP therapy: a prospective analysis” is being presented today at SLEEP 2012, the 26th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) in Boston.

To be placed on the mailing list for SLEEP 2012 press releases or to register for SLEEP 2012 press credentials, contact AASM PR Coordinator Doug Dusik at 630-737-9700 ext. 9364, or at

A joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, the annual SLEEP meeting brings together an international body of more than 5,500 leading clinicians and scientists in the fields of sleep medicine and sleep research.

At SLEEP 2012 (www.sleepmeeting.

org), more than 1,300 research abstract presentations will showcase new findings that contribute to the understanding of sleep and the effective diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

Follow @aasmorg on for live updates and use the official hashtag #SLEEP2012 to see what attendees are saying. “” the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on at .com/sleepmedicine for photos, videos and more.


Sleep Apnea and Your Sex Life: Will CPAP Make a Difference? | Blog

How Sleep Apnea Can Wreck Your Sex Life and How to Change That

Do you ever wonder if Sleep Apnea is reducing your libido and hurting your sex life? A recent study found that treating Sleep Apnea with successful CPAP therapy, actually improved things for couples in the bedroom! Read on for full details.

You already know that Sleep Apnea affects your ability to sleep, but what does it do to your sex life? There is more to it than snoring being a real turn-off. The side effects of untreated Sleep Apnea can not only take a toll on your overall health, but it can also affect your ability to perform at that special moment.

Sleep Apnea is a treatable condition, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that options CPAP are good for your sex life. Read on for more information on how CPAP therapy can make both your sex life and relationship better.

Is Sleep Apnea Linked to Sexual Dysfunction?

Apnea means the disruption of breathing. When it happens at night, it’s called Sleep Apnea. There is a link between this chronic medical problem and sexual dysfunction. A 2018 cohort study published by the JAMA Network looked at 182 Sleep Apnea patients to see if following the typical treatment for this condition had a positive effect on the quality of their sex lives.

The authors based their study on the understanding that having untreated Sleep Apnea impacted a person’s sex life by:

  • Reducing their libido
  • Reducing their ability to be intimate
  • Causing erectile dysfunction
  • Causing vaginal dryness
  • Leading to painful intercourse

The objective was to determine if using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) at night could improve sexual quality of life. To complete the study, they did a statistical analysis of patients with recently diagnosed Sleep Apnea dating from September 2007 to December 2017.

The data included the number of hours participants used their CPAP therapy each night. Patients were split into two groups: CPAP users, defined as those who wore the CPAP for more than four hours each night, and nonusers, patients who wore the CPAP for less than .5 hours.

What they found out was the female participants using CPAP faired better with the sexual quality of life scores than the men. In this particular study, CPAP had almost no effect on the sexual lives of men.

It’s not clear why there was such a great gender discrepancy in this one study, though. Other similar reports found that men did see improvement with CPAP, according to the lead study author.

Despite these puzzling results, the collective evidence is that men benefit from the use of CPAP, as well.

How Sleep Apnea Affects Intimate Relationships

Many people associate Sleep Apnea with the medical problems instead of the emotional side effects that can damage a relationship. A person with untreated Sleep Apnea has a greater risk of:

  • Daytime fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Complications with medications
  • Complications with surgery
  • Liver conditions

Read more: How untreated Sleep Apnea can affect you from head to toe.

Sleep Apnea has an impact on partners by depriving them of sleep. Sleep deprivation of one or both partners is a common cause of sexual problems.

When a person isn’t well rested, they experience low energy, fatigue, and sleepiness along with a decreased libido and reduced interest in sex.

When you hit the bed, the only thing on your mind is sleep and that’s a problem when you are part of a couple. Add to all this a potential for anxiety or depression which is not conducive to sex either.

You see a similar effect in parents with new babies. They don’t get enough sleep and it can lead to quarrels, increased irritability, and low sex drive.

The problem is more complex than that, though. Men who experience Sleep Apnea may have lower testosterone levels, reducing both their interest in sex and their ability to perform. Sleep Apnea and erectile dysfunction can go hand in hand.

Family support is important for those with Sleep Apnea, though. Read more about how to offer that support to your partner with Sleep Apnea.

How Can CPAP THerapy Improve Your Sex Life & Relationship?

The cause of most cases of Sleep Apnea is airway collapse. The muscles that support the soft tissue in the throat relax enough that it slides backward blocking the airway. Once the brain realizes you have stopped breathing, it gives you a little jerk to wake you up just enough to get you started again. It’s a continuous cycle that is hard on your body as well as your love life.

CPAP therapy is reserved for moderate to severe cases of Sleep Apnea. The continuous flow of air through your nose puts enough pressure on the throat to keep the muscles from relaxing, reducing a person’s risk for chronic and life-threatening illnesses heart disease while helping everyone get a better night’s sleep.

Wearing CPAP improves your overall well-being and your libido will respond to the change. You will naturally be more alert and focused both day and night with improved levels of concentration.

The moodiness that comes with sleep deprivation disappears, too.

A person who feels more in tune with their body and rested because they wear a CPAP will not only want to have sex more often but is able to have a stronger physical and emotional response to it.

The combination of all the benefits of CPAP therapy along with the return of your sex drive means complying with it can be a relationship saver. You go from living apart at night to being back in the same bed again. CPAP has proven benefits to sex drive, as well. Sleep Apnea and ED may be a thing of the past once you get proper treatment.

Read more: Talk to your partner about Sleep Apnea

Of course, there are no guarantees but the studies support the idea that using ​CPAP to treat your Sleep Apnea will have a positive effect on your sex life.

David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.


Sleep Apnea Affects Sexuality, Intimacy

How Sleep Apnea Can Wreck Your Sex Life and How to Change That

From the WebMD Archives

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.

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.”

“Those who snore, have a collar size over 17 inches, who are male, and overweight need to be diagnosed and treated for obstructive sleep apnea,” says Weaver. “Treatment is effective in improving a variety of areas of life including intimacy and sexual relationships.”

Episodes of apnea can occur 20 or 30 times a night, says Weaver. “This results in extremely fragmented sleep; it is someone waking you up 20 or 30 times a night.”

The study included 156 patients, mostly men, with sleep apnea. Participants with sleep apnea were treated with CPAP and then compared with people without sleep apnea.

Patient sleepiness and intimacy and sexuality were measured. There were four components on the intimacy and sexuality scale — relationships, desire, arousal, and orgasm.

Participants' daytime sleepiness improved significantly with CPAP, especially in patients with more severe sleep apnea, she says. “After treatment, participants improved substantially but didn't quite go back up to normal.”

In addition, the effect of treatment with CPAP improved patients' sexuality.

“There was a definite relationship between the improvement in sleep apnea and sexual functioning,” Weaver says. “They had more energy and were more sexually active than before.”

SOURCES: American Thoracic Society 2005 International Conference, San Diego, May 20-25, 2005. Terri E. Weaver, RN, PhD, associate professor and chairwoman, Biobehavioral and Health Sciences Division, University of Pennsylvania. Andrew L. Ries, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and family and preventive medicine, University of California, San Diego.

© 2005 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.