Sleep apnea refers to abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing while sleeping. Sleep apnea affects more than 12 million Americans. This disruption of normal breathing during sleep has been linked to conditions such as fatigue, high blood pressure and weight gain. People suffering from sleep apnea are also much more likely to snore loudly. Recent studies have discovered that sleep apnea can also lead to sexual disorders such as erectile dysfunction.
Research suggests that the oxygen deprivation and the chronic interruptions to the REM sleep cycle interferes with the natural release of sex hormones such as testosterone. Lower levels of testosterone can greatly increase the chance of ED in men of any age. Men over the age of 65 or men with a history of heart or cardiovascular disease are especially prone to erectile dysfunction due to sleep apnea.
In 2009, a group from the University of Donaustuf, Germany conducted a trial, examining 401 suffering from
sleep apnea. The study found that 69% of the men with sleep apnea also had chronic erectile dysfunction.
A similar study discovered that sleep apnea could lead to significantly higher rates of sexual dysfunction in women as well.
The most common and effective treatment for sleep apnea is with a continuous positive airway (CPAP) device. A CPAP is a mask that covers the nose and/or mouth, which gently blows air into the airways, helping them stay open.
Changes in lifestyle such as losing weight and avoiding cigarette smoke and alcohol can also be helpful in treating the symptoms of sleep apnea and relieving erectile dysfunction. It is important to discuss any sleep problems or sexual disorders to your doctor as soon as possible.