Sleep apnea may occur while we’re sleeping, but it can impact every aspect of our waking lives. This includes our sex lives. Sleep apnea can lead both to a loss of desire and to physical dysfunction. In the past, much of the attention has been put on how sleep apnea was linked to erectile dysfunction (ED), and other problems with men’s sexuality. But a new study shows that it may be women who benefit most from getting sleep apnea treatment. However, the study also shows that CPAP leaves most people with untreated sleep apnea.
Treatment Improves Women’s Sex Lives
This study looked at patients recruited in a parent study over the course of three years. The patients were seen after they had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed CPAP, but before they actually started CPAP treatment. At this point, researchers collected baseline data from all patients. Then researchers saw patients again one year later to collect final data. They compared this data against the usage data from CPAP machines.
The initial pool in the parent trial was 242 patients, but researchers confined their analysis to those patients that used CPAP for the recommended time each night (4 hours or more) and those who essentially didn’t use it at all (0.5 hours a night or less). This left them with a group of 182 patients, 72 who used CPAP and 110 who didn’t. Most patients in both groups were men.
On average, patients reported mild sexual dysfunction at baseline (a rating of 1 on a 5-point scale). After 12 months of treatment, CPAP users saw a 0.7-point improvement in their sexual dysfunction, but nonusers saw a 0.1-point improvement, essentially no improvement at all.
What surprised researchers most is that this difference was being driven by the women in the study population. Although men only saw an average improvement of 0.14 points, women saw an improvement of 1.24 points, about nine times as large!
The Patients CPAP Leaves behind
Overall, this study isn’t particularly remarkable. The population didn’t have a high degree of sexual dysfunction, and the improvements measured weren’t that great. What is most noteworthy about this study is how many patients just don’t benefit from CPAP treatment. Of the initial 242 patients, only 72 (30%) used their CPAP for an average of 4 hours or more, the recommended treatment level.
This means that 70% of the patients prescribed CPAP essentially still had untreated sleep apnea. This is unacceptable. People with sleep apnea need to be treated. Therefore, we need to work harder to ensure that people are prescribed a sleep apnea treatment they will actually use.
Oral appliance therapy has a high compliance rate (over 90% when measured with the same standard as CPAP). In fact, most people who are prescribed an oral appliance actually use it all night, every night.
If you‘ve been prescribed CPAP and can’t adapt or don’t want to try it, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center. We can assess your sleep apnea to determine whether oral appliance therapy is appropriate for you.