Untreated sleep apnea can negatively impact your health in a number of ways. Whether it’s increasing your odds of type 2 diabetes, heart failure or stroke, sleep apnea is a disorder that should be dealt with sooner rather than later.

Beyond the more obvious disruption in the bedroom from loud snoring, there’s an even more troublesome reason sleep apnea disrupts your love life. Snoring can certainly get in the way of an intimate night with your significant other, but there are also biological factors at play.

To begin, your body doesn’t operate as well as it should when it’s getting insufficient sleep. That alone can ultimately impact intimacy, desire, and male performance in the bedroom.

Beyond insufficient sleep, a sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea when left untreated, hampers your libido and diminishes sex drive. It also contributes to diminished blood flow and vascular issues that lead to erectile dysfunction in men.

One reason treating sleep apnea is so effective is that it treats many of the underlying conditions linked to diminished sex drive and erectile dysfunction (ED). This where CPAP, the most common treatment of OSA, comes into play.

Multiple studies, coupled with first-hand testimony, indicate CPAP therapy can have a remarkable effect on your sex life. Research indicated it both promotes better blood flow, and helps stimulate your sex drive. Let’s take a quick look at how sleep apnea derails your libido, as well as the research showing CPAP treatment can help improve performance and rekindle romance.

Sleep Apnea Decreased Men and Women’s Libido

Sleep apnea doesn’t just affect men in the bedroom, it can also dampen the sex drive and performance of women as well.

For women, one study looked at 80 females suffering from sleep apnea and compared them to a few hundred women without the disorder. Women between the ages of 28-64 answered questionnaires on their sex lives. The study found the women with untreated sleep apnea had “significantly more sexual distress” than those without it. Those women, on top of their sleep apnea, suffered from Female Sexual Dysfunction, a wide-ranging problem that includes consistent issues with sexual desire, lubrication, response, pain and ability to achieve orgasm.

There’s even more research highlighting how damaging sleep apnea is to the sex lives of men.

In 2009, researchers found nearly 70% of men with untreated sleep apnea also had erectile dysfunction. At the time, about 18% of all men experienced ED, indicating sleep apnea can drastically worsen the problem.

Another recent study from 2018 found men with untreated sleep apnea have 23% greater odds of reporting low libido than men who do not have untreated sleep apnea. The median age for the men in the study was about 43-years-old, and research found odds of low libido increased with age and depressive symptoms.

Is there a common thread? Yes. The primary issue is that sleep apnea leads to insufficient sleep marked by frequent nighttime arousals. Poor sleep interrupts the body’s natural hormone production cycle and can lead to diminished testosterone levels. This directly impacts the sex drive of both men and women; decreased testosterone also contributes to erectile dysfunction for men.

(It doesn’t take long for poor sleep to impact testosterone levels, either. Researchers from the University of Chicago found only a week of sleep deprivation can lead to a 15% drop in testosterone production.)

What’s more, many of the symptoms of untreated sleep apnea undermine your libido. Fatigue, irritability, depression and stress are common signs of sleep apnea that also stand in the way of a healthy sex drive.

Related: How CPAP Can Significantly Improve Depression

CPAP Leads to a Stronger Sex Drive and Performance for Men

Patients who suspect they have sleep apnea often find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, they’re frustrated by their diminished sex drive, along with other health problems that may be apparent. But they’re also worried treatment with CPAP therapy may get in the way of their love life. They’re concerned that instead of snoring there’s now a machine that, while increasing air pressure and helping them breathe better, could detract from intimacy.

That’s an unfounded concern, however. In fact, multiple studies spanning years of research have determined CPAP therapy can profoundly boost libido and reduce issues of erectile dysfunction.

One study, led by researchers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, looked at 92 men who were suffering from untreated sleep apnea. The average age of the men in the study was 45, and about half of them suffered from ED.

Researchers prescribed CPAP therapy and conducted reviews after 30 days, 90 days, and six months. The results were promising: by the study’s completion, more than 50% of the patients with mild ED reported improvements; about 30% with moderate ED reported less problems, and 27% with severe ED also said their problem had been mitigated by consistent CPAP therapy. The participants also reported stronger sex drives, researchers found.

Erectile Dysfunction and CPAP Therapy

There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to erectile dysfunction (ED). Many mistakenly believe ED is when a man is unable to get an erection, but ED is also a difficulty in maintaining or keeping a firm erection. This may occur for years before a man completely loses the ability to get an erection.

Another misconception is that softer erections are “normal” for men in their late 40s into their 60s, but men should be able to maintain and get strong erections into their 70s. If not, it’s a sign of more serious issues.

In fact, a man’s ability to maintain firm erections is one of the best indicators of cardiovascular health. The penis is full of vascular tissue. When aroused, blood rushes to the tissue. If it’s not getting to the tissue or staying in the tissue, it hints at a much larger problem such as coronary artery disease.

Sleep apnea, heart and artery issues, and erectile dysfunction are closely linked. That’s why multiple studies have found CPAP therapy not only helps treat coronary artery disease but ED as well.

One study from 2018 found CPAP therapy led to a 28% decrease in the risk of developing coronary artery disease. This occurs because CPAP machines increase the air pressure to the throat and counteract airway blockages. By removing these blockages, the body stops releasing norepinephrine, the main “awake” neurotransmitter in the brain, while you sleep; because of this, your blood pressure is reduced, making it easier for your heart to pump oxygenated blood throughout your body. This is obviously a big deal when it comes to tackling underlying ED issues.

ED is often a warning sign a man is suffering from coronary artery disease. Penile arteries are relatively small and are usually the first to become blocked. CPAP therapy, by working to alleviate coronary artery disease through increased air pressure, can significantly reduce blockages that not only threaten your cardiovascular health but also your sexual health. That’s why increasing oxygenated blood flow via CPAP therapy can pay major dividends for men suffering from ED.

Other common reasons men may struggle with ED are high blood pressure, and diabetes, among others. It’s also important to note, OSA contributes to and worsens cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes. If you’re affected by any of these conditions and are struggling with erectile dysfunction, seeking sleep apnea testing is a good place to start. With existing in home sleep apnea testing technology, it’s fast, convenient and easy to find out if sleep apnea is preventing satisfying sexual encounters with your partner.

DISCOVER OTHER ASSOCIATED HEALTH RISKS OF SLEEP APNEA 

CPAP Improves Sex Lives and Libido for Women

Studies have also shown women receive a boost to their sex lives when they’re CPAP adherent.

One study, from 2018, prescribed CPAP treatment for 182 people; of those 182 people, 72 followed their CPAP on a nightly basis. The participants were also asked to fill out a survey before the study, which included questions on how their health problems had impacted their libido and their sex lives; the participants then rated each question on a 0 to 5 scale, with 0 indicating “no problem” and 5 indicating a “problem as bad as it can be.”

After 12 months of CPAP treatment, the female participants reported a significant improvement in their libidos. Overall, the women reported a 1-2 point improvement, on average, in their responses to items touching on sexual desire.

More research is needed to fully understand why CPAP therapy can lead to major benefits when it comes to libido and erectile dysfunction, but the research to this point is promising.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

A diminished libido and erectile dysfunction are two common symptoms of untreated sleep apnea. There are also several other signs you may have sleep apnea that are worth keeping in mind. Here are a few of them:

  • Loud snoring
  • Morning headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Frequent memory lapses
  • Waking up while gasping during the night
  • Depression

If you recognize you’ve been dealing with these symptoms, it may be time to reach out and see how a sleep specialist can help you get a good night’s sleep — and potentially give your love life an added boost, too. Contact Sleep Centers of Middle Tennessee today and see how we can get you back to enjoying your time in bed.

 

 

References

Peterson, M., et al. (2011). Sexual function in female patients with obstructive sleep apnea. The Journal of Sexual Medicine 8(9): 2560-8. Retrieved on March 30, 2020 from:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21699663

Budweiser, S., et al. (2009). Sleep apnea is an independent correlate of erectile and sexual dysfunction. The Journal of Sexual Medicine 6(11): 3147-57. Retrieved on March 30, 2020 from:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19570042

Mun, J.K., et al. (2018). Sleep and libido in men with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Sleep Medicine 52: 158-162. Retrieved on March 31, 2020 from:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30340202

Anderson, M.L., et al. (2011). The association of testosterone, sleep, and sexual function in men and women. Brain Research 6(1416): 80-104. Retrieved on March 31, 2020 from:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21890115

Mandal, Swapna and Kent, Brian D. (2018). Obstructive sleep apnoea and coronary artery disease. Journal of Thoracic Disease 10(34): S4212-S4220. Retrieved on March 31, 2020 from:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6321892/#__ffn_sectitle