Using a CPAP machine is an absolute necessity for individuals who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Left unchecked, sleep apnea can lead to a wide range of serious health complications, increasing one’s risk for stroke, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, and more.
However, despite the deadly risks associated with uncontrolled sleep apnea, some people are reluctant to engage in prescribed CPAP therapy. For some, concerns over the mask being an uncomfortable fit cause them to avoid treatment. But for others, worries over how using a CPAP device will affect their partner and their relationship keep them from taking this important medical step.
In reality, many of the concerns over how a CPAP machine will affect your partner are not as big of a deal as you might think. However, there are some important things every couple should be aware of when one of them begins CPAP therapy.
How Noisy is the CPAP Machine?
The noise level of a CPAP machine while it is in operation is one of the biggest concerns that many have about getting this device. They worry that the consistent whirring of the machine during the night will disturb them or their partner and keep them from being able to fall asleep.
Fortunately, this isn’t the case. Improved technology has enabled CPAP devices to become quieter than ever before, ensuring they won’t disrupt your sleep or that of your partner. For example, testing of the Philips Respironics DreamStation indicates that at a pressure of 10cm, its operating loudness is only 25.8 decibels.
According to decibel level charts, that is roughly the same noise level of a whisper — and not much louder than what you’d hear in a quiet natural area. This sound level is consistent throughout the night, which means in some ways, it acts more like a white noise machine, which could actually help some people fall asleep more easily.
Concerns about the noise levels of a CPAP machine quickly fade when you consider how loud and disruptive snoring can be to your bed partner’s sleep. Studies have found that anywhere from 70 to 95 percent of people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) also snore. The worse one’s OSA, the louder their snoring.
Mild snoring is generally considered to be in the range of 40 to 50 decibels, while loud snoring exceeds 60 decibels and can sometimes even get as loud as 80 or 90 decibels. That’s louder than a ringing phone or city traffic. While earplugs can help mitigate such extreme noise levels, insomnia.net notes that even industrial earplugs often only reduce decibel levels by 30, which isn’t enough to cancel the noise entirely.
For most couples, when a partner who snores switches to using a CPAP machine, it will actually decrease noise-related sleep disruptions, rather than the other way around.
The Stigma of Wearing a CPAP Mask
Concerns over how wearing a mask will affect their appearance is a common reason why many are reluctant to start CPAP therapy. To some, it doesn’t matter if the mask is a comfortable fit and provides quality breathing throughout the night. They worry that wearing a CPAP mask will make them less attractive to their partner.
There is no denying that wearing a CPAP mask will likely require some changes to your normal sleeping habits, and that wearing a mask will cause you to look a bit different. Consider this example from an article published by Washingtonian magazine:
“Quianna Taylor, 37, had already been in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend when he was diagnosed with apnea, so there was no awkward reveal at the first sleepover. But he did have to adjust his nighttime routine. Taylor’s boyfriend often sleeps at her house in Brentwood, and he’ll show up toting his machine in a small bag. It’s not a device suited to nocturnal spontaneity. The two make a point of getting in a goodnight kiss before he hooks himself up, and they’ve had to revamp their snuggle architecture. ‘I used to be the little spoon,’ says Taylor, ‘and now he’s the little spoon.’”
An article from NBC News notes that for some people, the appearance of the CPAP mask in the bedroom can be a hard adjustment. However, it is important to keep things in the proper perspective. You don’t need to put your CPAP mask on until right before you go to bed — it’s not like you have to put it on as soon as dinner is over. If you are particularly self-conscious, you could wait to put on your CPAP mask until after your partner has gone to sleep.
Being mindful of the benefits of sleep apnea therapy should outweigh any concerns over how a mask makes you look while you are both asleep. Untreated sleep apnea can contribute to unhealthy weight gain, which will affect your physical appearance and stamina at all times of day — not just while you are sleeping.
Another thing to be mindful of is that you will need to make space in your bedroom for your new CPAP device. Depending on the current layout of your bedroom, this may require some slight rearranging of your furniture.
CPAP devices aren’t overly large, but for best results, they should be placed on a bedside nightstand. This provides easier access to the system and avoids putting added strain on the CPAP tubing. You may need to clear off the nightstand to make space for the CPAP machine. If you don’t have a nightstand, you will likely need to get one.
If you don’t like the idea of having your CPAP equipment sitting out on top of the nightstand, there are additional solutions available. Some furniture retailers actually sell specialty nightstands that are designed to hide CPAP equipment in specialty drawers while incorporating user-friendly openings for the mask and tubing.
Travel-size CPAP machines like the ResMed AirMini AutoSet Travel CPAP are even smaller and more discreet, while still being suitable for bedside use. If you travel often, this could be a good solution that also won’t take up as much space in the bedroom. This can help ease the transition into using a CPAP machine for you and your partner.
How Untreated Sleep Apnea Can Affect Relationships
While using a CPAP machine will certainly introduce some changes for you and your partner’s nightly routines, it is important to consider just how much the benefits of CPAP therapy outweigh the alternative of untreated sleep apnea.
As mentioned previously, snoring can cause significant sleep disruptions — and in many cases, it can even put a strain on relationships. One person’s extremely loud snoring will often cause their partner to sleep in a separate bedroom so they can get uninterrupted rest. Worse still, snoring can introduce real emotional strain in the relationship.
In an article for Psychology Today, Micahel J. Breus, PhD explains, “Snoring itself can become a focal point of both frustration and shame within the dynamic of a couple’s relationship. The person who is kept awake (or who has to shuffle off to the spare bedroom in the middle of the night) may grow to feel resentful of his or her snoring partner. The snorer, meanwhile, often feels guilty, ashamed, and helpless about their noisy, disruptive sleep. These feelings can be a real source of irritation and isolation for even very loving couples.”
Even if sleep apnea-related snoring doesn’t disturb your bed partner, the very real effects of the fatigue that you will experience can harm the overall quality of your relationship. People who suffer from sleep apnea often experience excessive fatigue that interferes with work performance and even sex life. They may become so tired during the day that they can no longer participate in normal activities like they once did.
Excess fatigue also introduces real emotional strain. An article from TIME notes that fatigue makes us more irritable and hurts our ability to process emotions properly. This makes it easier to overreact to minor issues that wouldn’t normally be a big deal. Or you might not be able to identify someone else’s emotional needs. Fatigue increases stress and conflict. You are more likely to feel depressed or anxious, which can have a direct impact on your interactions with loved ones.
Not getting enough sleep can also harm your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and other illnesses. Sickness and fatigue will cause you to have less energy for activities with those you care about. You'll be so focused on rest and recovery that you won’t have as much time together, which is vital for strengthening any relationship.
The emotional strain that is so easily introduced by sleep apnea is further complicated by the other health hazards associated with the condition. Heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes can all bring about premature death, shortening the amount of time you have to spend with your loved ones.
Using a CPAP machine could do more than improve the quality of your relationship. It could help you add years to your life that you wouldn’t have been able to enjoy otherwise.
A Note on CPAP Machines & COVID-19
The current COVID-19 pandemic is understandably a source of concern for many, particularly CPAP users. Many CPAP users have underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk for severe symptoms of COVID-19. Your partner may also be in an at-risk group.
While your best solution is to ask your doctor how you should continue treatment, there are a few things to be aware of. Some research has indicated that using a CPAP machine could actually help spread the coronavirus. Because of this, some medical specialists recommend that CPAP users sleep in a separate bedroom away from other family members to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.
Naturally, practicing social distancing and basic hygiene practices like washing hands often and avoiding touching your face will further reduce risk. CPAP users should also take care to closely follow cleaning and sanitation guidelines for their equipment.
If you or another member of your household begins developing symptoms of COVID-19, contact your doctor and/or a sleep specialist. They can give you additional guidelines for safely using your CPAP machine, or they might recommend that you temporarily stop using your equipment.
Better Sleep For a Better Relationship
By using a CPAP machine as recommended by your doctor, you will be able to enjoy a better night’s sleep than in the past. If your snoring has been disturbing your partner’s sleep, they will also benefit! Even more importantly, by mitigating your sleep apnea, you can avoid the harmful long-term health consequences that come from troubled, unrestful sleep.
Depending on your insurance situation, however, getting the CPAP equipment you need for your treatment may be a financial burden. This is where No Insurance Medical Supplies comes in. We offer a wide range of CPAP and BiPAP machines from many of the industry’s top brands, with discounted prices, free shipping on orders over $89, and available financing to help you better afford your equipment.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are shipping orders based on when they are received. While some items are low on stock, we are getting new product in on a daily basis and are striving to ship orders out as quickly as we are able. We appreciate your patience and trust during these challenging times.
Don’t let stigma or fear keep you from using your CPAP machine. Improved health and better sleep for you and your partner are closer than you might think!