Treating Sleep Apnea Can Improve Marital Relationships, New Study Shows

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Sleep apnea poses a serious health risk to sufferers and can also strain romantic relationships. A recent study highlights that consistent use of positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy not only enhances sleep quality for those with obstructive sleep apnea but also improves their relationships. Addressing chronic snoring issues through treatment may thus benefit both health and marital stability.

PAP therapy adherence increases relationship satisfaction

The study presented at the SLEEP 2024 annual meeting discovered that better adherence to PAP therapy is associated with increased relationship satisfaction and fewer conflicts between patients and their partners.

Also the study revealed additional benefits: improved sleep efficiency in sleep apnea patients led to greater relationship satisfaction for both them and their partners. This underscores the interconnectedness of couples’ sleep experiences and shows that addressing one partner’s sleep issues can benefit both individuals.

Sleep apnea is a disorder where breathing repeatedly stops during sleep, with interruptions (apneas) lasting from seconds to over a minute and occurring multiple times an hour. This blockage happens when throat muscles relax and obstruct the airway despite ongoing respiratory effort.

Untreated sleep apnea can cause numerous health issues, including heart problems and high blood pressure due to repeated nighttime awakenings that strain the cardiovascular system. It also leads to daytime fatigue, reduced liver function, metabolic syndrome, and a lower quality of life. The Cleveland Clinic notes that sleep apnea can result in fatal complications, such as irregular heartbeats during disrupted sleep that may lead to sudden cardiac death.

An individual’s sleep influences another person’s relationship experience

Scientists, led by Dr. Wendy Troxel from the University of Utah, conducted a study on 36 couples to understand the effects of PAP treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. Over three months, they collected data on the participants’ PAP usage and sleep patterns using wrist-worn actigraphy devices.

The study revealed bidirectional effects: one person’s sleep influenced the other’s relationship experience and vice versa. Consistent PAP machine use by patients led to increased satisfaction in their romantic relationships for both themselves and their partners, emphasizing sleep as a “shared experience” for couples.

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