A large number of men around the world are affected by Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which is documented to affect many parts of daily life such as wakefulness, quality of life, and unfortunately, erectile function. Considering about one third of our lives is spent sleeping, a large portion of that can be spent in a hypoxic state as a result of OSA. Hypoxia, low oxygen levels in the blood, is known to affect the entire body, specifically blood pressure, vasculature, and endothelial function – all of which play a pivotal role in erectile function.
OSA is usually seen in men who have a higher BMI associated with obesity (≥30), which also comes with its own host of problems. Pair the two together and poor erectile function becomes more likely. Getting and maintaining a good erection requires sufficient blood flow to the penis and good endothelial function to allow for proper dilation of the blood vessels. Long periods of hypoxia as a result of OSA can cause damage to the endothelial cells in the body, which can cause further complications through an increase in blood pressure.
In a recent study about Obstructive Sleep Apnea and erectile function, a group of researchers looked at how CPAP therapy for OSA can positively affect erectile function after extended periods of use, due to its ability to improve sleep quality and oxygen saturation in the blood. There were 94 men in the study with an average age of 51 and a BMI above 30, indicating obesity. Sixty-four of the men had documented ED ranging from mild to severe. Improvement was measured using four scales: erectile function, sleepiness, overall wellness, and depression.
The results of this study were very positive, suggesting that CPAP therapy can improve erectile function in men who have moderate to severe ED. Men who had mild/moderate ED did not show any improvement in erectile function, but as severity of ED increased, so did their improvement of erectile function. In every group, sleepiness and depression decreased, while overall wellness increased.
Although the study was unable to identify the mechanisms behind the improvement, they hypothesized that the prevention of sleep apnea with the CPAP device eliminated hypoxia. Overtime, the absence of hypoxia allowed the penile vasculature to restore its ability to properly dilate, which improved erections overall. Maintaining health during the nighttime hours is just as important as taking care of your physical health during waking hours. If you have been diagnosed with OSA and prescribed a CPAP, using it consistently can improve your daily quality of life and even help with your sex life too! If you think you may have sleep apnea, see your primary care physician or a sleep specialist to be evaluated.
If you’re experiencing ED, contact us for more information or a free phone consultation.