Can untreated sleep apnea cause erectile dysfunction?
Published on October 26, 2022
Has your partner been impacted by your sleep disorder? Has your intimacy suffered? Sleep problems can affect you and your partner’s overall well-being if left undiagnosed and untreated.
Obstructive Sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder that affects 1 in 4 Canadians. It is a serious condition in which your breathing repeatedly stops while you are asleep. Relaxed throat muscles, a narrow airway or extra fatty tissue around the throat can be causes of a blocked airway, among others.
Symptoms of sleep apnea can affect your mood and daily performance, and if left undiagnosed, it can lead to several chronic illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, and/or stroke.
Untreated sleep apnea impacts your partner’s sleep as they are disturbed by your loud snoring. It can affect the intimacy in your relationship over the long-term. Men with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction (ED).
Untreated sleep apnea affects male hormone levels
Lack of sleep from untreated sleep apnea can cause a drop in testosterone levels, and limit the flow of oxygen to the rest of the body. Both of these factors are essential for arousal.
Consequently, low levels of testosterone may also lead to poor sleep according to a 2014 study at the University of Adelaide. Researchers have claimed that stress and weariness caused by a lack of sleep may worsen sexual issues. A 2016 study found that 63% of sleep apnea patients who had erectile dysfunction were showing a high frequency of ED among men with OSA.
Sleep disturbances have been linked to the disruption of the endocrine system, which may cause you to stay alert for longer. Whether sleep disturbances are caused by obstructive sleep apnea, poor sleep habits, or excessive worrying, the first step in resolving your issue is identifying the problem.
What puts you at a higher risk for OSA and ED?
Erectile dysfunction and sleep apnea have several shared causes and risk factors. Many of these factors can contribute to developing the disease, which makes it important to identify the problem early and seek treatment.
Risk factors for ED
Risk factors for OSA
High Blood Pressure
Speak to your family doctor if you think you may have sleep apnea and/or erectile dysfunction. Untreated OSA can impact your quality of life at home and at work. Seeking treatment can help you and your partner have better sleep and overall wellness.
Your partner hears you snore every night, could it be OSA?
It may be a sign that you have sleep apnea if you’re showing two or more of these common symptoms:
- Daytime fatigue - occasionally falling asleep while driving or at work
- Breathing pauses (apneas)
- At night, gasping for air
- Inability to stay focused
- Feeling down, irritable, or moody
- Reduced sex drive
- Getting up frequently at night to use the washroom
- Bad dreams
If you are experiencing these symptoms, then take our short sleep apnea quiz to know if you are at risk for OSA.
If at risk for OSA, we recommend that you make an appointment with your family doctor soon. A doctor will conduct a preliminary diagnosis to determine if you are eligible for treatment.
Seeking treatment for obstructive sleep apnea
The first step to seeking treatment for OSA is recognizing that you are showing signs of a sleep disorder. Scientists have discovered that treating OSA may also help in relieving the symptoms of ED.
CPAP therapy is considered the most effective non-invasive treatment for sleep apnea. Men with sleep apnea who sought out treatment for their condition through sleep apnea therapy using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device had stronger intimate relationships.
Your family doctor can provide a referral for sleep apnea testing, which can be done at home, called a Home Sleep Apnea Test (HSAT) or in a Sleep clinic/lab, depending on which province you live in. After being diagnosed with sleep apnea, clinicians at VitalAire will support you with a personalized treatment journey.
Sleep apnea therapy requires ongoing clinical support and education based on your diagnosis. Our sleep consultants will support you in determining the right CPAP device, mask and accessories for your therapy and comfort needs to improve therapy adherence.
Contact us to speak with our experienced sleep clinicians. We are proud to take care of our patients in Canada over the past 45 years, and would be happy to support you with your therapy needs.