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The Link Between Sleep Apnoea and Erectile Dysfunction

The Link Between Sleep Apnoea and Erectile Dysfunction The Link Between Sleep Apnoea and Erectile Dysfunction

You might consider obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and erectile dysfunction (ED) as two completely different situations with no shared relationship. However, this might not necessarily be the case.

Many studies have shown that men who suffer from chronic bouts of obstructive sleep apnoea may be at a higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction over time. Why is this the case? What factors do scientists believe are at play? What are some of the primary symptoms of sleep apnoea and how can they contribute to erectile dysfunction? Are there any effective treatment options to consider?

Let us take a look at each of these questions in greater detail in order to find the answers that you have been searching for.

How Can This Happen?

It is interesting to note that no definitive causal link has been established. However, there are several theories which have gained a following in recent years. These can be grouped into three main categories:

  • A lack of testosterone
  • The inability of the body to effectively produce nitric oxide
  • Mental stress and anxiety


One of the most common suppositions states that men who suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea are unable to produce adequate amounts of testosterone during the overnight hours.

As this is one of many hormones which are synthesised when we sleep, it only makes sense that OSA sufferers who have lower levels of testosterone are more likely to exhibit the signs of erectile dysfunction. Insufficient testosterone can also lead to other symptoms such as lethargy and feelings of extreme tiredness throughout the day.

Nitric Oxide

Another theory points to a chemical known as nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is what is known as a vasodilator. In other words, it expands blood vessels so that more blood can be delivered to various organs throughout the body.

The main issue with obstructive sleep apnoea involves the fact that one of the enzymatic precursors to nitric oxide is often lacking. Thus, the body has a difficult time producing nitric oxide. This can have a direct impact upon sexual arousal, as the penis requires a significant amount of blood flow in order to remain erect before and during intercourse.

Emotional Stress

A third factor which is likely to play a significant role is the emotional stress that is often present alongside obstructive sleep apnoea. We need to remember that sexual arousal is also a mental state as well as a physical condition.

It is a well-known fact that those who endure regular bouts of obstructive sleep apnoea are more likely to feel anxious, stressed, worried, and even depressed. All of these emotions can have a profound impact upon levels of sexual arousal.

As a result, men are at a greater risk of developing erectile dysfunction. Emotional stress has also been linked to other conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease; two other scenarios which can lead to erectile dysfunction.

What Studies Were Conducted?

One important study was undertaken by researchers at the University of Louisville. These scientists performed a series of lab tests on mice. One group was deprived of sleep for short periods of time for one week (this was the experimental group). The other (control) group was not interrupted during the overnight hours.

At the end of the first week, both groups were given a drug intended to treat the symptoms associated with erectile dysfunction (known as Cialis). While each category became sexually aroused in the presence of a female, the mice that had been deprived of sleep showed less of a response to Cialis.

This is an important finding, as it illustrates that those who suffer from sleep apnoea might not experience the benefits associated with drugs intended to eliminate the symptoms of erectile dysfunction. This also shows that further steps are likely to be required in order to lessen incidences of ED in men.

The Overall Impact Upon Intimate Relationships

As mentioned above, men who suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea are much more likely to exhibit the symptoms associated with erectile dysfunction. This will naturally have a negative impact upon any intimate relationship.

However, there are other factors which are just as important to highlight. For example, men who are unable to become aroused will be more likely to develop confidence issues related to their sexual performance. This self-induced stress will therefore make an erection even less likely to occur.

Furthermore, the other symptoms attributed to obstructive sleep apnoea can impact both partners. Those who suffer from constant snoring are likely to disrupt the sleeping patterns of their significant other. The same holds true during situations when an individual may suddenly wake up may times throughout the night. Therefore, the physical impacts of sleep apnoea and erectile dysfunction represent only the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

Dealing with Erectile Dysfunction and Sleep Apnoea

It is important to note that while sleep apnoea may not always lead to erectile dysfunction, you are at a much higher risk if the appropriate treatment recommendations are not adopted.

This is why it is a good idea to speak with a physician or a qualified sleep specialist in order to discover whether you have sleep apnoea.

The appropriate measures can thereafter be taken, ensuring a sound night of sleep and more satisfying levels of intimacy. However, it is up to you to take the first step and to consult with a trained medical technician. You are likely to be amazed with the results!

To shop for the highest-quality selection of CPAP devices (and Oral Devices): https://www.cpap.co.uk/shop.html

Author: Helen Clarkson

About author: Helen Clarkson is a Sleep Specialist at Baywater Healthcare. Ms. Clarkson has worked with Baywater since 2008, working closely with patients in delivering sleep/bi-level services including sleep and respiratory, both in the home and clinic setting. This includes therapy initiation and troubleshooting support. Ms. Clarkson is responsible for delivering the Baywater Healthcare patient adherence management programme to ensure continuing patient therapy compliance. works in conjunction with NHS clinicians and procurement to deliver excellence in home and clinic-based services. She provides training on all aspects of sleep including devices and interfaces. Previously, Ms. Clarkson served as Respiratory Physiologist at Pontefract General Infirmary. Her position was Senior MTO for lung function/sleep department, and she was responsible for performing simple and complex sleep studies, sleep study analysis, CPAP initiation, therapy adherence and troubleshooting/service clinics, spirometry, lung volumes and transfer factor, reversibility, CPET, hyperventilation testing, EIA testing, skin prick testing, 6 min walk tests. She has also held roles as Respiratory Physiologist and Respiratory Technician, working closely with patients with respiratory disorders -- including ex-miners. Ms. Clarkson has a BSc (Honors) in Applied biology from University of Staffordshire. She also studied Developments in Sleep Medicine (advanced course) at St. Thomas’ Hospital, and took the Edinburgh Sleep Medicine course. She completed the BSS: Advanced sleep course and the ARTP NIV Course.

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