For a lot of patients of sleep apnea, PAP devices are a life saver. They help us sleep better making us more awake and rejuvenated throughout the day. They will help us live longer and help prevent a lot of other health issues long term. This is all fantastic. But introducing a device used when you sleep can effect your love life. Whether you are single and on the dating scene or already in a relationship, you are probably wondering what, if anything, will change. And how should you approach this with your partner, or potential partner?
For me, I was diagnosed when I was in my early 30s, and I had plenty of concerns when I was given my BIPAP machine. Wondering what my girlfriend would think, would it be unattractive, will it be annoying, cause any problems, and a number of other things. I will address as much as I can to help ease your mind. I will separate it in 2 sections, one for single people and another for those in a committed relationship.
Single with your CPAP
If you are on the dating scene when you first get your CPAP, you might be wondering if this is going to interfere with your social life and your chance at finding love, or just dating. This can effect your dating, but only if you let it. I will go through some quick tips of things to keep in mind.
Tip 1: Be Honest
This is something that you will want to give the person you are dating somewhat advance notice. I don’t think you need to mention it on the first date. I would advise against it actually. Saying on a first date that you have sleep apnea and need a machine to breath at night might sound scarier and more serious than it actually is.
You are a normal person and dropping it on the first date might imply that this is something that has caused romantic problems or have their mind go down a rabbit hole of thoughts about sleep apnea when they should be getting to know you, and you getting to know them. Second or third date sounds more appropriate. You would want to try to avoid springing the news on them the first night you spend together. That would not be a fun way for them to find out.
Tip 2: Think ahead and be prepared.
If you are dating someone and are expecting to be intimate with them, the easiest thing to do is when deciding your place or theirs, your place makes a lot more sense. You don’t have to worry about carrying your CPAP around, finding a way to get it plugged in, setting it up somewhere new, etc.
So when it gets to that time, maybe invite your potential partner over for dinner, drinks, try to encourage to end the night at your place.
And if for whatever reason your place doesn’t workout, then prepare yourself to bring your CPAP with you. If you know, or if there is a chance that you might not spend the night at your own place, pack up your PAP, mask, and all the supplies you need.
Even if you don’t have access to distilled water where you are going, you can still use your CPAP without water. And you can (though I wouldn’t do it often) use tap water if you really have to as I discussed in this post.
And if you are not sure about the bedroom setup of your partner’s and not sure about access to a wall outlet, and portable battery would be a good investment. Can you imagine your first night together and the two of you are unplugging things, trying to use an extension cord to reach over in a spot that is hard to get too… it is a bit of a mood killer.
but planning ahead and making it as simple as possible will limit the time you are messing around with the CPAP while you are both awake. And you only use it while you are both asleep.
Tip 3: Educate your partner
You will want to give your partner some quick tidbits of info so they better understand your condition and treatment. This will help ease any concerns they have and prepare them for what to expect. Let them know, this is only something you need for sleep. Everything else with you is normal. Tell them how it makes you sleep better and makes you more awake and refreshed.
You will want to tell them that the machine is QUIET. For those of you that have yet to use a machine yet, they almost all are super quiet. Pretty much all anyone will hear is the sound of you breathing, not the machine.
A good thing to tell them that if they do hear air escaping (like air leak slowly coming out of a balloon) that they should wake you. It just means your mask isn’t on right and needs to be adjusted. And tell them that is super rare (at least it is for me).
And if you don’t want to get that too detailed in it, you can tell them this helps you not to snore. Now that is something any bed partner would appreciate.
Conversations like this will make them feel included in your treatment and may make them feel closer to you. And being upfront with this information will make them think “If that’s the worst of it, then it is no big deal.” You need a machine to help you sleep better, it isn’t like you have cooties.
Tip 4: Don’t worry about rejection
I am being honest when I say, whether you are a guy or a girl, and no matter what gender partner you are pursuing, most people won’t look at you using a CPAP as a deal breaker. Most won’t even see it as a turnoff.
Of course though, there is always that one shallow and uneducated person that will use it as excuse to not be with you. Ignore that person. Think of it as a good thing that the CPAP ruled them out as a long term partner early. If they are shallow enough to not be with you because of a CPAP, then even without CPAP they will find SOMETHING else eventually. People like that are looking for any flaw as an excuse. Don’t bother with people like this.
Think about all the things your doctor told you about as long term risks. How this can hurt your heart, your memory, your brain, and a bunch of other organs. If your health is not a concern to your partner, they are not worth it. Your health should mean as much to them as their own health if they really love you.
Tip 5: Your sexual desire
One of the worst side effects of sleep apnea, especially for young people, is it can negatively effect your sexual desire. This happens in especially men with potentially causing ED (erectile dysfunction). And in both women and men, making them to sleepy to enjoy or perform sexual activity in general, even though everything else is working.
So let’s think about this… Which is worse
A) You don’t use your CPAP regularly, which causes ED or makes you too tired for sex. So when you are intimate with your partner, you can’t perform, have trouble performing, or just can’t enjoy it and your partner notices.
B) Live like you normally would, be intimate with your partner as the real you, awake and 100%. Then when you are finished with sexual activity, kiss each other good night and put on your mask and turn your machine on. Then because you keep regularly using your CPAP and not skipping on any treatments at night, you continue to have nights like that together.
It just makes sense. As bad as you might think the mask is unattractive (it isn’t, and it is not like you are wearing it while having sex), it is way more unattractive to have performance issues that are avoidable by treating your sleep apnea.
Tip 6: It could work better to your advantage
I am leaving this final tip here for the single folks with a tongue in cheek view. Have you considered that maybe, just maybe it is possible that your CPAP mask might actually turn your partner on? I know it sounds super weird. But be honest, people are attracted to a lot more weird things. Plus, there are a lot of Star Wars fans out there. Are you sure one of them might not get slightly turned on by a Darth Vader mask?
Either way, a Star Wars fan would still appreciate the Darth Vader mask reference you make.
Introducing CPAP into your already established relationship
If you are already in a relationship when you are diagnosed, it will be an adjustment even in a strong relationship. Here are some tips to help with that adjustment. If you read through the tips I had for the single people, some of this may over lap, but this will by tailored to be more applied to you.
Being in a relationship and being single have completely different challenges. Though if you ask me, it is a lot easier to adjust with an established partner than being single
Tip 1: Include your partner
This is going to be a big adjustment for you, and if you are in a relationship, this can actually be a huge plus to help you. But you will want to approach it and communicate the right way. If possible, you might even want them to be there when you get the diagnosis from the doctor and when you get your CPAP machine. This way you both can ask and learn.
Your partner can help remind you to put your mask on, clean it, check the filters, and other things. It will take some time to get used to using a CPAP or BIPAP. Having a partner there to remind you and encourage would be a huge benefit. They can also be on the lookout to listen if you are still coughing, your mask is coming off, or other things that could alarm that the therapy isn’t working.
With me, my girlfriend and I will snuggle in bed and talk. I can’t talk obviously with my mask on, so we talk and snuggle with my mask off. Sometimes I can snooze off and she will wake me reminding me to put my mask on.
Including your partner in this journey can be something that will bring you together. It will be really rewarding for both of you when a “new you” comes out from successful treatment.
Tip 2: Explain to your partner what your doctor says:
If your partner is not with you when you meet with the doctor, you should tell them what your doctor tells you. This is things like the symptoms your doctor thinks are caused by sleep apnea and what positive changes you can expect with CPAP treatment.
Depending on what your symptoms are, your partner has probably been experiencing a pretty poor version of yourself. Symptoms vary, but your sleep apnea could be causing depression, memory loss, drowsiness, and lack of sexual desire.
If you have had a snoring problem, you can let her know this may help with the snoring. This will most likely get your partner excited. Getting rid of snoring is a huge plus in the bedroom. You may want to let them know that CPAPs are very quiet. That way they don’t worry about trading one noise for another.
This can be frustrating on a partner that may blame themselves if they don’t understand. So explaining to them in a positive way that you and your doctor think you have found the root cause of these problems and are going to work hard on therapy to get better. And the range to see a noticeable difference can vary. It could be days, weeks, or months. Different symptoms vary from person to person. Your doctor may be able to give you a better timeline for you.
But going over this info can put a partner at ease that may be frustrated with your recent, unexplained behavior.
Tip 3: Be as self sufficient as possible
Although it is great to have a partner to help you, you don’t want to burden them to a point where they are doing more work towards your treatment than you are. You want to remind yourself to use your machine at night, clean is regularly yourself, make sure you are stocked up on distilled water, check your filters, and so on.
It is great to have a partner, but in the end, this is your responsibility.
Tip 4: Don’t be ashamed
You may be self conscious at first. Having this big mask covering your face, you may feel unattractive. But you should not be ashamed. This is going to be a huge health boost for you. And whenever you are sexually active with your partner, whether it is wife, husband, girlfriend, or boyfriend, you will not have the mask on. You will only have this mask on when you are both sound asleep.
If you consider that one of the possible symptoms of sleep apnea is lack of sexual desire and ED (erectile dysfunction), then not using CPAP is a lot worse than using it. Using it could probably do wonders for your sex life.
These are all things to consider when you think that maybe you don’t want to use your CPAP because you are worried about being unattractive or turning off your partner. This is the wrong reason not to use CPAP therapy. Only reason you should stop is if it is not working and you work with your doctor for alternative treatments.
Tip 5: Make room for your CPAP
If you are in a committed relationship, but not living together, you will need to get a routine down and make plans. You will want to politely ask you partner about makes space in their home to set your CPAP up when you spend the night there. Making sure there is a space for it, and have an active power source.
You will also want to have a place to store some distilled water too. I told the single folks that if they had to, they can use tap water for one night. But since you are going to be spending lots of nights there, you don’t want to use tap water very often. If your partner tries to talk you into not using distilled water and just using tap water, have them read my post about tap water and CPAP here.
They might not want to store distilled water there, but these CPAP machines are expensive, and using distilled water will help make them last.
Whether you are in a relationship or still single, CPAP can make you wonder what could go wrong when you use it with a partner. But focus on what could go right. The chances of this being beneficial to your social life than hurtful is far more likely. You will still want to give proper communication to make the adjustment easier for your partner.
And remember, anyone that truly cares about you will never tell you not to use treatment, or leave you because you wear a mask at night. You got this!