The Relationship between Sleep Apnea and Erectile Dysfunction
Oftentimes, erectile dysfunction and other sexual performance problems have underlying contributing factors. At Boston Medical Group, 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. 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
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. 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:
- 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
Other ED Treatment Options
Here at Boston Medical Group, we have an array of non-invasive treatments available such as oral medication, RejuvaPulse™ Therapy, BostonPRP™, and Boston ReGen Therapy™.
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.
For more information about Boston Medical Group’s ED treatments, please read here:
Treatment Options (bostonmedicalgroup.com)