Impact of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Its Treatments on Partners: A Literature Review

J Clin Sleep Med. 2017 Mar 15;13(3):467-477. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.6504.


Study objectives: Many adults sleep with a significant other; thus, sleep disorder symptoms and treatments of one partner are likely to impact the other partner's health. A literature review was conducted to examine the impact of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and OSA treatments on partner-assessed sleep and daytime functioning and partner involvement in OSA treatment.

Methods: MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CINAHL searches yielded 38 pertinent quantitative and qualitative studies that described sleep and/or daytime functioning assessed in partners of patients with untreated OSA, sleep and/or daytime functioning assessed in partners who were referred for OSA treatment, including continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliance (OA), or surgery, and/or associations between partner involvement and OSA treatment use.

Results: The majority of studies found untreated OSA to have a negative impact on partners' objective and subjective sleep and daytime functioning, in particular mood, quality of life, and relationship quality. Improvements in partner-assessed sleep quality were reported for CPAP, OA, and surgery. Conflicting results were reported for partners' mood, quality of life, daytime sleepiness, and relationship quality. Perceived partner support was associated with greater CPAP use.

Conclusions: Symptoms associated with OSA can negatively impact partners' sleep and daytime functioning. Treatment of OSA with CPAP, OA, or surgery can have health benefits for not only patients but also partners. Collaborative partner involvement may be a useful strategy for interventions promoting CPAP adherence.

Keywords: continuous positive airway pressure; obstructive sleep apnea; oral appliance; partner; spouse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure / methods*
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / psychology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*
  • Spouses / psychology*