The Relationship between Sleep Apnea and Erectile Dysfunction
Oftentimes, erectile dysfunction and other sexual performance problems have underlying contributing factors. At Boston Medical Group Telemedicine, our focus is to identify these problem areas and their potential influences on overall patient health. Many treatment changes such as diet, exercise, excessive smoking, and alcohol behavior may be recommended. But did you know that your quality of sleep may be a bigger impact on your sex life as well as cause your ED?
Can Sleep Apnea Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
If you have ED, it is highly likely that you may also suffer from sleep apnea. To understand this relationship between sleep disorders and erections, we must first learn what sleep apnea is and how it affects our bodies.
Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder in which sleep is interrupted because breathing is irregular. Obstructive sleep apnea is a respiratory disease that causes poor sleep, intermittent hypoxia, hypoxia-induced neurological difficulties, hormonal and psychological abnormalities, and insufficient nitric oxide synthesis. Sleep apnea can lead to reduced testosterone levels, which can, in turn, lead to ED; which is common in OSA patients. Erectile dysfunction and sleep apnea share multiple risk factors, including age, obesity, and underlying heart disease.
This could be either caused by blocked airways from relaxed throat muscles or a respiratory problem led by the nervous system. Those with sleep apnea wake up frequently in the night, often with a choke or gasp. A long list of symptoms may include loud snoring, daytime sleepiness, episodes of stopped breathing during sleep, dry mouth, sore throat, high blood pressure, nighttime sweating, mood changes, irritability, limited attention span, nocturia (waking up in the middle of the night to urinate), insomnia, and most importantly, decreased libido.
There are 3 types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) – physical blockage of the airway due to relaxed throat muscles.
- Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) – the brain fails to transmit signals to your respiratory system, and is unable to control your breathing.
- Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome (CompSAS) – having both OSA and CSA
Before, OSA is among the least studied risk factors for erectile dysfunction but in recent years researchers have found evidence that men who have obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have ED, and vice versa. Sleep apnea has been linked to low testosterone, erectile dysfunction, and fatigue. Testosterone is the key hormone responsible for the normal growth and development of male organs. It maintains other sexual characteristics such as libido. Men restore most of their testosterone levels during sleep, as oxygen is needed to produce testosterone so you can imagine how being sleep deprived plays a significant role in testosterone levels and production. If one has irregular breathing because of sleep apnea, we can infer that their testosterone levels are negatively affected by the lack of oxygen supplied during sleep (oxygen deprivation). As testosterone levels decrease, so does men’s libido.
It is also important to note that common symptoms of lack of sleep are irritability, mood changes, and limited attention span, which could put a strain on your day-to-day relationship with your partner. Loud snoring and nocturia are symptoms that would disturb your partner’s rest as well. You may both suffer from sleep deprivation, and increase the likelihood of sexual dysfunction. As you get less sleep, you experience poorer moods and mental health problems. The more exhausted you are, you become less cognizant of your partner’s needs.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Most common risk factors for sleep apnea patients:
- Excess weight
- Narrowed airway
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Biological sex (males)
- Family history of sleep apnea
Can You Reverse the Effects of ED Caused by Sleep Apnea?
Because of how important sleep is to sexual health, it is possible that treatments for sleep apnea may also remedy ED. Those with sleep apnea may undergo treatments such as lifestyle changes, weight loss, reducing sedative use, and sleeping on one’s side. More advanced sleep medicine treatments may include Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines, which constantly pushes air to open the airways, and similar Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure (Bi-PAP) mouthpieces, uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP- the removal of the uvula, tonsils, adenoids, and parts of the soft palate), and mandibular advancement devices (MADs).
Of all these, the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is the most used for cases of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome, the main cause of sleep apnea in the world.
What Are Other Effects of Sleep Apnea?
Having sleep apnea can even cause an increased risk of having complications such as:
- Daytime fatigue
- Cardiovascular problems (Hypertension and heart problems)
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Complications w/ medicine and surgery
- Eye problems
- Immune response weakness
- Liver problems
- Sleep-deprived partners and a disrupted intimate relationship
- Erectile dysfunction
Research finds that having sleep apnea can be a drag on your love life. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to sexual dysfunction in men and women. A recent study that was published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine in 2020 looked at 182 males who were recently diagnosed with sleep apnea and found that roughly 60% of them had a lower sex drive. The study also discovered a link between poor sleep quality and a lack of sexual function (one of the ED symptoms). Your partner’s sex drive may be affected by sleep apnea. If one spouse suffers from sleep apnea, neither partner is likely to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Other ED Treatment Options
Here at Boston Medical Group Telemedicine, we have an array of non-invasive treatments available to retrieve your erectile function such as oral medication, RejuvaPulse™ Therapy, BostonPRP™, and Boston ReGen Therapy™. These treatment options can help you with your sexual problems due to Erectile Dysfunction.
It is important to note that studies resulted in inconclusive diagnosis’. Although sleep apnea and erectile dysfunction share many common health complications, treating sleep apnea cannot ensure the treatment of erectile dysfunction. If you’re one of the ED patients that have poor sleep quality from sleep apnea and you want to treat it, please seek professional help.
If high blood pressure is the cause of ED, a doctor may prescribe statins or other blood pressure-lowering medications. Losing weight and other lifestyle modifications may also be beneficial. If the cause is due to the use of specific drugs, a doctor may recommend a different prescription that does not induce ED. Counseling or therapy may be beneficial when the cause is emotional or depression.
For more information about Boston Medical Group Telemedicine’s ED treatments, please read here:
Treatment Options (bostonmedicalgroup.com)
This Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.