Using sleep apnea treatment and still feeling tired? Does that mean it’s not working? No. There are other important reasons to treat sleep apnea.

In treating sleep apnea it’s important to keep focussed on what it is you are trying to achieve. The three main reasons for treating sleep apnea are: improving your partner’s sleep, improving your sleep and energy levels throughout the day, and reducing health risk. Tiredness from sleep apnea often takes some time to gradually improve, so if you are still feeling tired, it doesn’t mean your treatment isn’t working, as it will be reducing health risk and helping your partner’s sleep. In this video, Dr David Cunnington discusses the 3 main reasons for treating sleep apnea.

Video Timeline:

  • 00:00 – 00:32 Why treat sleep apnea?
  • 00:32 – 00:58 Improving your partner’s sleep
  • 00:58 – 01:35 Improving symptoms of disturbed sleep and tiredness
  • 01:35 – 02:15 Reducing health risk
  •  02:15 – 03:04 Assessing improvements on all three outcomes

Related posts & links:


In managing sleep apnoea, there are three main reasons why I want to treat sleep apnoea.

  • The first is the partner reporting snoring, disturbing their sleep.
  • The second is the person who has got sleep apnoea themselves finding their sleep disturbed or they’re more tired during the day than they would expect.
  • The third is health risk. So things I’m going to be concerned about as a doctoral physician, future risk of health problems.

In terms of the first reason for treating sleep apnoea, what the partner is noticing, there’s good data showing that partners of people with sleep apnoea get much less sleep than those without sleep apnoea. So the partners on average get about 50 minutes less sleep when their partner has got sleep apnoea. Then when the partner goes on treatment for sleep apnoea, they’re gaining back that 50 minutes of sleep. So it can be a really important outcome when we’re trying to manage sleep apnoea. The second outcome, the person who has got sleep apnoea themselves, feeling like they’re not sleeping well. So around 50 percent of people with sleep apnoea will report insomnia or disturbed sleep as part of their sleep apnoea symptoms.

About 60 percent will also report feeling more tired than they would expect during the day and find with treatment they get improvements with tiredness. Not necessary all the time it’s just magically disappearing, but improvements with tiredness. They gradually improve over time and that increased energy also allows people to put more energy into other things that can make them feel less tired like exercise, fitness, and doing other things for their general health.

The third reason for treating sleep apnoea is that health risk. Severe sleep apnoea is associated with about a doubling of the risk of future high blood pressure, heart disease such as heart attacks and heart failure and increased risk of stroke. Again, about double the risk. It also increases the risk of depression or making depression more resistant to treatment and some studies show even up to a fivefold increase risk of depression.

People with sleep apnoea are also at risk of accidents with two to three times the risk of motor vehicle accidents. Hence this sort of needing to report to the licensing authorities and getting letters from sleep specialists, if you have got sleep apnoea and also a similar risk of accidents in the work place.

So I will often have people say to me, “The treatment is not working. I’m still feeling a bit tired.” But the key is to think about those three different outcomes because usually the treatment is working in terms of keeping the partner happy, managing the health risk and maybe the outcome you’re judging it against is that tiredness and that’s only partially effective for that outcome. That’s often the case early on. Don’t think of that as the treatment not working. Think of that as two out of the three outcomes actually covered pretty well and the third outcome a work in progress.

It is important when I’m managing sleep apnoea to just keep in mind what it is I’m actually trying to achieve for each of those three different outcomes.

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