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Partner's Support Helps Men Adhere to Apnea Treatment

Positive airway pressure therapy works best when couple works together, research shows

FRIDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- Going to bed wearing a continuous positive airway pressure machine may not be a flattering look.

But new research shows that men who have a supportive female partner who is willing to work with them to deal with their obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to continue treatment.

Obstructive sleep apnea is marked by repeated pauses in breathing throughout the night for periods lasting from a few seconds to minutes. The condition can raise the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.

The researchers examined data on the quality of the relationships of 23 married or cohabitating male patients with obstructive sleep apnea before beginning continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, at the 10-day mark and after three months on therapy.

The male study participants were asked questions about how their female partners helped them adhere to healthy behaviors, such as by encouraging, blaming, working together or reminding (perhaps a gentler term than nagging).

Patients who believed that their relationships were supportive were more likely to work together with their partner while using CPAP, according to the study presented this week at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies annual meeting, in Seattle.

Those patients with supportive relationships were also the most likely to continue using the device, the researchers found, while methods such as encouragement, reminding or evoking fear or blame did not promote adherence, the study authors reported.

"We know that in many health conditions, having a supportive partner can improve adherence and emotional well-being when dealing with a chronic illness," said study author Kelly Glazer Baron, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in a news release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "This is the first study in CPAP treatment to show that working together with the partner in an active and supportive manner was associated with better adherence."

While CPAP -- a common and effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea -- can normalize breathing, and thereby help protect patients from serious health risks, the machine can take some getting used to and not everyone who could benefit from its use will wear it. Some complain of dry mouth or discomfort.

More information

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on continuous positive airway pressure.

-- Jennifer Thomas

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, June 8, 2009

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