Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which a person intermittently stops breathing in his or her sleep throughout the night. Such breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to over a minute, waking the person multiple times a night. Even though sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed, it is estimated that over 18 million adults suffer from this condition in the United States alone.
A study published by The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that sleep apnea, depression and poor sleep quality might contribute to erectile dysfunction in men. The study monitored patients suffering from depression and sleep problems and found that more than 700 of those patients also had erectile dysfunction.
Another study published in PLOS ONE compared 4,835 patients suffering from sleep apnea with over 145,000 control subjects. The researchers found that patients with sleep apnea were more likely to have erectile dysfunction problems than the control subjects.
So what causes this correlation?
Male bodies naturally replenish testosterone levels during sleep. Oxygen is essential in testosterone production. Sleep apnea disrupts oxygen intake throughout the night, thus impeding testosterone production, which in turn leads to potential erectile problems.
However, men aren’t the only ones whose sexual health is affected by sleep apnea. Multiple studies show that women with sleep apnea are also more likely to experience a decrease in sexual desire, orgasm and the overall quality in their partner relationships.
It is important that both men and women to pay close attention to their sleep patterns and talk to their doctors about sleep apnea as a potential cause of sexual health issues.