Sleep Apnea and Sexual Dysfunction

We have previously reported a study showing that sleep apnea treatment improves sexual functioning and also erectile dysfunction in men. Likely, some of the oxygen loss and sleep fragmentation caused by untreated sleep apnea has negative effects on hormone regulation necessary for proper sexual functioning. These improvements were short-term, but little has been done to examine the long-term changes in sexual functioning after successful treatment of sleep apnea.

In this study, a group of about 90 men were followed-up after about 3 years of sleep apnea treatment (CPAP) usage. These men had previously been assessed for sexual dysfunction through questionnaires and self-reports about recent sexual encounters and issues. Questionnaires asked about things like sexual desire and intercourse satisfaction. They were asked about how often they used their CPAP and the current status of any sexual issues, including erectile dysfunction.

Interestingly, the severity of sleep apnea prior to initiation of treatment (measured during an in-lab sleep study) was related to the severity of erectile dysfunction and overall sexual dysfunction scores. In the chunk of men who had admitted to having moderate-to-severe erectile dysfunction, those who had maintained their CPAP treatment (used for over 6 hours per night) had a significant decrease in erectile dysfunction, whereas those who had not been using CPAP did not. The same pattern was seen in those who had reported overall sexual dysfunction between initiation of any sleep apnea treatment1

In this type of study, where very personal questions are asked, people are likely to under-report their conditions, meaning there may have actually been more sexual dysfunction within this population. Regardless of this, positive effects on sexual functioning and erectile dysfunction were still seen when comparing those who had faithfully used their CPAP and those who had not. Importantly, not all of these men were “cured” after CPAP use, meaning in some cases sexual dysfunction is not directly caused by sleep apnea. Because sleep apnea is typically related to excessive weight, it is likely that obesity played a role in these dysfunctions. That being said, CPAP treatment is the gold standard for sleep apnea, but losing weight is the most efficient cure for sleep apnea.

 

References: 

1. Budweiser S, Luigart R, Jörres RA, Kollert F, Kleemann Y, Wieland WF, Pfeifer M, Arzt M. Long-term changes of sexual function in men with obstructive sleep apnea after initiation of continuous positive airway pressure. J Sex Med. 2013 Feb;10(2):524-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02968.x. _2968 5


Janna Mantua

Author

Janna is a PhD Student / Graduate Research Assistant at University of Massachusetts Amherst with a background in clinical sleep research and psychology. Janna Mantua is a PhD student in the Behavioral Neuroscience department at the University of Massachusetts. Her research focuses on sleep and aging, with specific projects on cognitive health, inflammation, memory formation, and neuroimaging. Prior to her PhD work, Janna was involved in research on sleep apnea and cognitive decline at the NYU Sleep Disorders Center.



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