Snoring May Sound Sexual Trouble

Erectile dysfunction is linked to sleep apnea but breathing treatment can help

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) For some snorers, sleep apnea—a condition that momentarily blocks breathing—can lead to sleep deprivation and health problems, including erectile dysfunction.

Recently, scientists have found that long-term use of an air pressure device may improve erectile and overall sexual functions in men with this sleeping problem.

Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can be life threatening, leading to heart attack, stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure. 

"Sleep apnea? Get treatment soon."

Stephan Budweiser, MD, Department of Internal Medicine III, Division of Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine, RoMed Clinical Center, Rosenheim, Germany, and his colleagues investigated how a therapy called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) could help erectile dysfunction.

Snoring with pauses in breathing is a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The condition causes people to wake up repeatedly during the night. During the day, patients may feel extra drowsy and have slow mental function.

Excess tissue, large tonsils and/or a large tongue can cause the blockage in the upper airway of the body.

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons states that 1 in 15 adults has at least moderate sleep apnea. Men with OSA can also experience erectile dysfunction.

One form of treatment is for the patient to wear a CPAP device when sleeping. Using a mask, tubes and a fan, the instrument helps air pass through your throat while asleep, reducing apnea events and snoring.

Study authors noted that previous research looked at the effects of CPAP treatment over the short term of one to three months. This research was long term, analyzing patients over an average of 36.5 months.

Focusing on a group of 91 males patients, Dr. Budweiser and his team identified 83 with OSA and 56 with erectile dysfunction. Just over two-thirds of the patients with OSA stated that they use CPAP therapy regularly.

Using a 15-item questionnaire, patients indicated their degree of erectile function. Comparing patients with moderate to severe ED, scientists found that the 21 CPAP users in this group experienced significant improvement in sexual function. The 18 non-CPAP users showed significant impairments and “long-term decline.”

“These data indicate that long-term CPAP treatment of OSA and the related intermittent hypoxia [reduction of oxygen supply] can improve or preserve sexual function in men with OSA and moderate to severe erectile or sexual dysfunction,” the authors concluded.

This study was published online in October in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. None of the authors had any financial interest in the issue covered by the manuscript.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 6, 2012
Last Updated:
November 8, 2012