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For millions of Americans, CPAP treatments mean the difference between life and death. Well, an early death anyway. CPAP machines are the most common treatment for sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder which affects tens of millions of men and women. Sleep apnea puts a strain on the cardiovascular system, leading to a wide range of health complications on top of constant, soul-crushing fatigue. That fatigue can put a damper on nearly every waking activity – including sex lives. Sleep apnea is linked with a wide range of sexual issues, including erectile dysfunction and ejaculation disorders in men and vaginal dryness and painful intercourse in women. Good news, though: a recent study has found that CPAP machines, the most common treatment for sleep apnea, can also improve sex lives.

The study examined health data gathered from 182 adults with newly-diagnosed sleep apnea. Most of the individuals were obese, and the average age was 47. All of the individuals were prescribed nightly CPAP use for one year, after which time their health data were examined again. After that year, researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine found that out of these 182 individuals, the 72 patients who were diligent in their CPAP use saw greater improvements in their sexual quality of life than the 110 who did not follow their nightly CPAP treatment plan.

Interestingly, the improvement in sex life was much more pronounced in the women in the study than in the men. “At this point, it’s not clear why we saw such a large improvement in sexual quality of life in women but no improvement in men, especially given that other studies have shown improvement in men,” says lead study author Dr. Sebastian Jara of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. “Despite this finding, CPAP has been shown to have numerous other health benefits in men and should still be encouraged.”

While this finding should be good news for individuals who are on the fence about their CPAP use, one limitation of the study must be pointed out: the sexual quality of life was interpolated from other quality of life data, not direct data on the sex lives of study participants. Still, these initial findings should help boost the visibility of CPAP machines and the numerous benefits they offer to individuals living with sleep apnea.

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