Sleep Apnea and Erectile Dysfunction?

Anyone who has been recently diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is well aware that such a condition can have a profound effect upon their lifestyle.

Not only will it disrupt normal sleeping patterns, but other chronic issues such as daytime fatigue and a lack of motivation are common.

Furthermore, long-term effects such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease have likewise been linked to OSA.

It is therefore not entirely surprising to learn that males who are suffering from this condition of sleep apnea are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction (ED).

What Symptoms Define Erectile Dysfunction?

ED is caused by a number of different conditions and many of these can be present at the same time. Some situations that can leads to ED in men include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Heart disease
  • Athersclerosis
  • High blood cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

Some common symptoms include the inability to obtain an erection or men who are unable to maintain an erection prior to and during sexual intercourse.

While the scenarios listed above are all classified as physical, we also need to take a look at the chemical and emotional components of ED in order to appreciate the big picture.

Studies have shown that men who have been suffering ED may also have an endocrine system that is failing to perform properly. This is particularly the case when referring to testosterone.

Of course, we are all aware that testosterone is one of the most important components which contribute to sexual arousal in males. Those with lower levels are therefore more likely to exhibit the symptoms associate with ED.

There may also be an emotional component related to this condition. Sometimes known as "performance anxiety", some men feel a great deal of pressure before intercourse. As a result, they may begin to display the symptoms of ED. Although this can sometimes be classified as a psychosomatic response, the physical results are very real indeed.

What is the Relationship Between OSA and ED?

What have you noticed about some of the symptoms associated with both ED and OSA? A handful seem to be correlated and this observation has not been lost on researchers.

In fact, a study conducted by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the United States found similar results. 92 men who had been recently diagnosed with OSA underwent a battery of tests.

One of these examinations was intended to determine the presence of ED. Nearly half of those surveyed stated that they had experienced some form of ED after being diagnosed with OSA.

Perhaps more disturbingly, it seems as if age does not play an important role. Even men in their sexual prime suffered from similar symptoms. Why might this be the case?

We first need to note that both testosterone and adequate levels of oxygen are both necessary in order to obtain and maintain an erection. Unsurprisingly, those who have been diagnosed with OSA will often receive lower levels of oxygen during the overnight hours.

Furthermore, it has been suggested that certain overactive hormones within the brain as well as increased adrenal gland activity may play roles in the development of sleeping disorders (although these are not thought to be the direct causes of OSA).

Research has likewise been unable to uncover any firm link between sleep apnea and testosterone production.

However, it is just as important to look at the mental part of the equation. As mentioned previously, OSA has been associated with several emotional disorders such as:

  • Increased levels of stress and anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Depression and the inability to properly focus
  • Low levels of mental alertness

When we then take into account the fact that men who are suffering from OSA are more likely to be physically tired, it only stands to reason that their chances of developing ED as a result will increase.

While further research needs to take place, it is safe to assume that males who have been diagnosed with OSA are more likely to exhibit the symptoms associated with ED. So, what options are available?

What Types of Treatment Options are at Your Disposal?

The first (and most important) step is to take an at-home sleep apnea test so that the results can be examined by a specialist. These tests take only a single evening to complete and the results will normally be with you within a very short period of time.

Assuming that OSA is indeed present, the most effective treatment involves the use of what is known as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

The main purpose of a CPAP machine is to prevent your airways from collapsing during the overnight hours by slightly increasing the level of air pressure through the use of a mask.

This mask will fit comfortably over your head and in the majority of cases, you can experience beneficial results within a very short period of time. CPAP machines are also extremely quiet and certain models are even able to provide air with a higher moisture content; important if you are worried about irritating your nose and throat.

Talk With Your Doctor

Although not all cases of ED are caused by OSA, research has clearly shown that those who have already been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to suffer from ED.

This is why it is prudent to take a proactive approach and to determine whether you might have either. Treating these situations in a timely fashion will help life return to normal and perhaps most importantly, it can help to prevent more serious consequences from developing in the future.

Speak with a doctor or a sleep specialist to learn more about your options.