Sleep Apnea Affects Sexuality and Intimacy

Patients who are treated for their sleep apnea may see an improvement on their sex lives.

The medical condition most commonly associated with problems with sleep and sex is sleep apnea, in which the airway is closed when someone is snoring.  People with sleep apnea may wake up as many as 400 times a night in order to breathe again, and this can cause severe daytime sleepiness, and irritability.  Men with sleep apnea tend to have lower levels of testosterone, which can lower libido. 

According to the 2005 Sleep in America poll released by the National Sleep Foundation, nearly 25% of couples in the United States admit to being so sleepy that they have lost interest in lovemaking. People who snore also appear to have inferior sex lives, as one-third of people say that snoring causes a problem in their relationship.

"In my practice, Ive found when couples are forced to sleep apart because of one partners sleep problems, it often has a terrible effect on the relationship," says Meir Kryger, M.D., co-chair of National Sleep Foundations 2005 poll task force.  "Its a move of last resort; the partner whose sleep is disturbed feels there is no alternative, but both partners are often devastated by this action," adds Kryger. Dr. Kryger is director of the Sleep Disorders Center at St. Boniface Hospital Research Center at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg; he is also a National Sleep Foundation director.
Sleep and sex is not a topic on which a lot of research has been done, according to sleep medicine experts.  And, there are a lot of ways that sleep affects ones sex life. However, separate beds, bedrooms, or sleeping on the couch may not be the answer either, as that could affect the psychological bond between the two of you.  A low sex drive is the most common sexual complaint made by women--up to 30% to 40% of women.

Facts relating sleep to a person's sex life:

Lack of sleep from sleep disorders has been proven to cause certain levels of sexual dysfunction.

One-third of partnered adults have problems in their relationship because of their partners abnormal sleep.

Increased stress translates into less time for both sleep and sex.

Two-thirds of partnered adults snore.  More than one-half of those who snore say their snoring bothers others.

Three in ten adults with partners take measures to try to prevent their own sleep from being disturbed because of their partners sleep problem.  Most sleep in a separate bed, bedroom or on the couch.

Lack of sleep causes moodiness, depression, and anxiety. These are emotions that obviously affect your drive for sex; it can include both insomnia and a diminished sex drive. 

Lack of sleep slows the basic thought processes. 

Lack of sleep slows reaction time.

Conditions that affect sleep and sex include heart disease, diabetes and lung conditions. 

Some medications that treat these conditions dont help ones sex life. For instance, medications for high blood pressure may cause erectile dysfunction in men by affecting the blood flow to the penis. 

Many antidepressants, which can sometimes cause erectile dysfunction and/or a loss of libido, further complicate matters. 

Psychiatric or medical problems that interfere with their ability to sleep well and perform well sexually. 

People may be ignoring sleep and sex because of a hectic work schedule. Even on the weekends, couples sometimes prefer catching up on their sleep instead of having sex. 

Those who do shift work at night may find it especially hard to obtain both sleep and sex.  Not only is it is difficult for shift workers and their partners to find a time when theyre both free to have sex, they are often too tired to get in the mood when time becomes available. Being awake at night also throws off the bodys internal clock, which sleep medicine experts say can impair sexual functioning. 

Men do not always budget time for sex either; they may say that, but research shows that they don't.  Fatigue is a common reason that both men and women opt out of sex. Many people who deal with fatigue instead try to have sex in the morning when they may be less tired, if they tend to get more tired in the afternoon or evening.  This may be a good solution for some men and their partners.

Some Tips for Couples
Plan an evening out together.
Go on a walk after dinner.  
Hire someone to clean the house.
Hire a babysitter.
Order in food.
Offer her a warm bath.
Give her a massage.
Take the TV out of the bedroom. 
Have 30-60 minutes of relaxation time before sleep.

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