Each night, millions of people are impacted by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleep apnea causes a start-stop breathing pattern when tissue in the throat blocks the airway. This results in disrupted sleep and less oxygen delivered to the body. In addition to constantly feeling exhausted, many men with OSA also experience erectile dysfunction.
In fact, a 2016 study found that 63% of study participants with sleep apnea also experienced erectile dysfunction. It is still unknown why there seems to be a correlation between the two but there are a number of theories.
Experimental research has found that sleep deprivation over several nights with healthy, young men led to a decrease in testosterone. In addition, REM sleep is an important element to the production and release of testosterone and this level of sleep is often not achieved in sleep apnea patients. It stands to reason that chronic sleep deprivation would equate to lower testosterone levels which could contribute to decreased libido and erectile dysfunction.
Sleep apnea can also cause low oxygen levels, especially in severe cases when breathing is stopped for a prolonged period. Research shows that chronically low oxygen levels at night can impact vascular organs like the heart, lungs and brain. Now doctors feel those low levels can also influence the vascular penis.
Testosterone and oxygen are both crucial to having healthy erections, so low levels of either may contribute to erectile dysfunction. However, it’s also worth noting other related issues of disrupted sleep patterns. Fatigue and stress can also result from restless nights and these, too, can take a toll on the sex life.
However, there is hope.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are the most commonly used treatment for sleep apnea. This involves wearing a mask at night which pushes air to the back of the throat, keeping the airway open. It is believed that using a CPAP machine not only improves the quality of sleep but also improves erections. It seems better sleep means higher testosterone and oxygen levels which means better erections. CPAP is however somewhat intrusive in the bedroom, and may not enhance the "mood".
Some patients have relief from apnea and snoring by undergoing surgery for sleep apnea. In some patients surgery can remove the need for CPAP. This study reveals that participants that had the UPPP treatment had improved erectile function after the surgery.
There are a variety of treatment options available for snoring and sleep apnea. If you are experiencing any signs of sleep disorders, contact Dr. Rotenberg today. Treating snoring and sleep apnea can improve sexual function dramatically, thereby boosting energy, elevating mood and improving quality of life. And, you’ll sleep better at night.