According to a new study, researchers found that women who used the device nightly reported a significant improvement in their sexual satisfaction after a year of treatment. Women with sleep apnea might experience a boost in their sex life if they regularly use a CPAP machine. However, it is the same benefit was not seen in men. The study was published online in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

Still, this study provides further evidence that if patients have problems with their sleep, they should be evaluated by their provider because treatment of their sleep apnea can have tremendous benefit in their lives all around. Sleep apnea occurs when a person's upper airway becomes blocked during sleep, causing the person to gasp, snore and wake up when the blockage stops their breathing. In adults, obesity is a common cause.

Sleep apnea has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, atrial fibrillation, dementia, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, pregnancy complications and several forms of cancer, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Many studies also have linked sleep apnea to poor sexual function, particularly in men, Jara said. Men with sleep apnea are more likely to have erectile dysfunction and less frequent sex.

CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines are the main treatment for sleep apnea. Patients wear a mask at bedtime that increases air pressure in their throat, to prevent their airway from collapsing as they sleep.

To test whether using a CPAP machine can improve sexual function, Jara and his colleagues recruited 182 people (115 men and 67 women) with newly diagnosed sleep apnea. These patients answered a quality-of-life survey that included questions about their sex life, including the ability to have sex and their desire for sex. Among the patients, 72 used a CPAP nightly, and 110 either did not or could not. Researchers tracked CPAP use through data collected by the device, Jara said.

After a year, patients filled out the same quality-of-life questionnaire again so that researchers could detect any changes. They saw a strong effect in women and a minimal-to-no effect in men. There are a couple of possible reasons that CPAP produced the improvements that were seen.

It could be that sleep apnea is interfering with sexual function in some biological way, or it could be that people using CPAP simply feel better and are more up for sex. They know that CPAP when you use it, makes you feel better," he said. "If you improve depression, if you improve energy and vitality, it's not surprising that sexual function improves. Everybody knows that when you feel lousy, sex is not high on your list."

They suspect men in the study might have experienced a similar improvement in their sex lives, but researchers simply didn't capture that data. Just because you don't show something happening doesn't mean it didn't. It just means you couldn't show it.