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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(5):1257

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common problem, with an estimated prevalence of 2 percent in women and 4 percent in men. Multiple studies have shown that those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea have a decrease in their quality of life. The latter improves with the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Bed partners of patients with sleep apnea also have problems with disruption of sleep because of their partner’s snoring, gasping, or choking sounds. In addition, concerns about their bed partner’s breathing pauses or other abnormal breathing sounds can cause sleep disruption. No current studies evaluate the impact of CPAP on the quality of life of bed partners. Parish and Lyng evaluated the quality of life of patients with obstructive sleep apnea and that of their bed partners, including the effect of CPAP treatment.

Participants in the study had symptoms of sleep apnea and an apnea-hypopnea score of more than 10 events per hour. To qualify for the study, patients had to have a regular bed partner and be willing to use CPAP. Before starting CPAP, the patient and the bed partner completed a 36-item short-form health survey, the Epworth sleepiness scale, and a sleep apnea quality-of-life index. All of these are widely used questionnaires, and the short-form health history and quality-of-life instruments have been validated in prior studies. The patient then was treated with CPAP for six weeks, and at the end of the study, each patient and bed partner completed the three instruments again.

Fifty-four patients and their bed partners participated in the study. The mean apnea-hypopnea score for the patients was 48.4 events per hour. All patients reported using CPAP on a regular basis. Patients noted a significant decrease in their Epworth sleepiness scale, a significant improvement in their quality-of-life score, and a significant improvement in their health history scores. Bed partners showed similar improvements in the quality-of-life and health history surveys. Bed partners had significant improvement in the health history survey in the role-physical, vitality, social function, and mental health domains after their partners were treated with CPAP.

The authors conclude that obstructive sleep apnea has a significant negative effect on patients and their bed partners. Treating these patients with CPAP improved the bed partners’ quality of life and their perception of their health status.

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