Healthy Living

Couple-Focused Therapy May Help with Sleep Apnea

Couple-Focused Therapy May Help with Sleep Apnea

A study suggests that positive and supportive interactions between sleep partners can help with sleep apnea, as it helps people adhere to CPAP therapy. The authors of the study stated that sleep partners who focused on benefits for each other were likely to use CPAP machines. This study was published on July 25th in a journal called Sleep Health

The lead author of the study, Lichuan Ye, said that the main impediment to the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea is poor adherence to CPAP therapy. He also added that couples can bring about a huge change in their health behaviors. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, over 20 million Americans are affected by obstructive sleep apnea. This condition causes difficulty breathing during sleep, thus producing loud gasping and snoring. Usually, sleep apnea can be treated using a CPAP machine, but most people view this treatment as bothersome and unattractive. 

About six in every ten adults sleep with their partners, and about one-fourth of married couples say their relationship is affected because of sleep problems. 20 partners were interviewed by Ye and his researchers on how relationships are affected by sleep apnea and the use of the CPAP machine. The main focus was on the CPAP and its challenges, advice, consequences, and any questions the partners had.

On average, two-thirds of the interviewees slept with their partners. One quarter of them shared that, from the time, when the CPAP was started, they would rarely sleep with their partner in the same bed. The machine was used for about five hours each night. Researchers noted that the majority of the time, partners would help in the treatment and diagnosis of sleep problems. Many even admitted that they got to know more about their own sleep problems through their partners. Some went through repeated discussions and took almost a year before they actually saw a doctor. One partner said it was extremely important to get even a single minute of sleep, especially when you are married and have a child. 


At first, the couples seemed anxious about the cumbersome CPAP machine, but those who focused on helping their partners achieved more success. Partners need to know about the CPAP machine and the difficulties caused by sleep apnea. Once the couples began using the CPAP machine, they experienced more energy and deeper sleep; their communications skills also improved, as well as their intimacy, according to some patients. Most often, help was provided in the maintenance and adjustment of the machine. It also helped when partners gave verbal compliments, open acceptance, and reminders. Most couples said that test should have started early. As the partners started a necessary, long-term treatment, it was essential for them to adjust to the new routine with patience. According to Faith Lusyter, a good transition was important and would happen if couples were supportive and respectful.

According to Dr. Salma Batoor-Anwar, the extent of spousal involvement plays a major role in adherence to CPAP therapy. It is crucial for one’s health to sleep about seven to eight hours per night. The quality of sleep apnea, and thus sleep in general, improves if the condition is diagnosed and treated early.

How Relationships Are Affected 

Usually, a person with poor sleep becomes very irritable and short-tempered. Thus, conflict management is negatively impacted. If a person undergoes treatment for sleep apnea, it can lead to better sleep and a more loving relationship.