How does sleep apnea and erectile dysfunction relate?

How does sleep apnea and erectile dysfunction relate?

Individuals with sleep apnea have a greater chance of experiencing erectile dysfunction than those without the disorder. That may be due to changes in the levels of testosterone.

Obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common form of the condition, occurs when the night-time airways create a blockage this disrupts sleep. This can be the result of a number of factors. Obstructive sleep apnea is usually treatable according to its cause.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when a person is having difficulty getting an erection or sustaining it for long enough to have sexual intercourse. ED can become a sleep apnea symptom.

This article discusses the relationship between sleep apnea and ED, and how to handle both conditions.

What is the link?

A person may be at greater risk for sleep apnea if he or she has a family history of the disorder.
A person may be at greater risk for sleep apnea if he or she has a family history of the disorder.

Research suggests that about half of sleep apnea sufferers often experience ED. In older adults and individuals with a higher body mass, it is more common.

Other research suggests that this amount may be even higher. One survey of 401 participants, for example, showed that 92 percent had sleep apnea, and 69 percent of those people also had ED.

The relation between the two can be linked to testosterone levels. Individuals with sleep apnea tend to have lower testosterone levels which is an important hormone for sexual activity.


There are several possible causes for both sleep apnea and ed.

Causes of sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles are incapable of keeping the airways open during sleep. Central sleep apnea is where, during sleep, the brain does not correctly regulate breathing.

Airways which become too small cause the majority of sleep apnea cases. This can be due to a number of factors including:

  • having a large neck
  • having an overbite
  • having obesity
  • having family members with sleep apnea
  • smoking
  • drinking alcohol
  • having large tonsils
  • sleeping on the back
  • having a small jaw or deep chin

Causes of erectile dysfunction

Being unable to get or sustain an erection can be the result of stress, exhaustion or excessive alcohol consumption. If this happens regularly, however, a physical or emotional trigger may emerge.

The cause is usually related to issues with penile blood flow, nerve supply, or hormones. This may be because of physical factors, such as:

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • obesity
  • substance use, such as smoking
  • hormonal disorders, such as thyroid conditions
  • taking medications, such as antidepressants

Sometimes emotional issues can also trigger ED. This could be linked to feelings of guilt or a state of mental health, including depression.


All sleep apnea and ED have a variety of treatment options.

Treatment for sleep apnea

Sleep apnea treatment usually involves opening up the airwaves so a person can breathe more easily at night. The proper treatment will depend on the underlying problem and may include changes in lifestyle, such as weight loss or reduced smoking and drinking.

Doctors can recommend it you sleep with certain items, such as a mouthpiece, in some situations. Such devices make nocturnal breathing more natural. Physical therapy can also be effective for both the mouth and face.

If the apnea for sleep is severe and other treatments are not successful, then surgery is another option. That could be moving the mouth, shifting the airways or removing tonsils.

Treating apnea for sleep may also help with an ED for an individual. Getting enough sleep will restore natural testosterone levels and decrease ED.

Treatment for erectile dysfunction

Apart from the diagnosis of the underlying condition, ED can also be specifically treated.

Medications that can help to increase blood flow to the penis, such as sildenafil, sold as Viagra.

More often than not, their underlying cause may depend on the type of treatment.

For example, if elevated blood pressure triggers ED, a doctor can prescribe medications to reduce blood pressure, such as statins. Changes in lifestyle, such as weight loss can also help.

If the cause is linked to taking other drugs, a doctor might suggest an alternative medicine that is not causing ED. May help if the cause is mental, medication or therapy.

Other side effects of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea can cause a range of other symptoms, including:

  • severe sleepiness and fatigue during the day
  • problems with attention and memory
  • dry mouth
  • headaches
  • regularly having to urinate during the night
  • loud snoring

When to see a doctor

It is normal to have a bad night’s sleep, or trouble getting an erection from time to time. But when these occur regularly, it could be a symptom of a disease underlying it.

If sleep apnea symptoms cause difficulties in the day or make the night uncomfortable, seek advice from a doctor. Sleep apnea can often be treated, and a doctor can provide recommendations about the most appropriate treatment choices.

If there are daily difficulties getting or maintaining an erection, it is also important to talk to a doctor or health care provider to understand the origin of the cause.


Sleep apnea can lead to reduced levels of testosterone which in turn can lead to ED, and many people with sleep apnea experience ED.

It is usually treatable for both ED and sleep apnea. Treatment is causal based.

When either or both problems occur regularly, a person should see a health care provider or a doctor.


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