Men and women with sleep apnea may experience sexual dysfunction. Read on for four key facts about how this common sleep disorder can impact your desire to have sex, your hormone levels, and more.
Sleep apnea can decrease your sex drive.
A 2020 Journal of Sleep Medicine retrospective study examining 182 men who were newly-diagnosed with sleep apnea found that decreased sex drive occured in about 60% of study subjects. The study also found a correlation between poor sleep quality and decreased sexual drive.
Sleep apnea can also affect your partner’s sex drive. If one partner has sleep apnea, it is likely that neither partner is getting a good night’s sleep. As a result, the desire to be intimate with one another can be reduced, since disrupted sleep may leave couples tired and less attuned to each other.
Erectile dysfunction and sexual dysfunction are common in those with suspected obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
A 2009 article published by The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that sleep apnea is an independent correlate of both erectile and sexual dysfunction. Researchers found a high occurrence of erectile dysfunction and overall sexual dysfunction in the study sample of 401 male patients undergoing laboratory-based sleep studies for suspected obstructive sleep apnea.
The study also found that low levels of oxygen saturation during sleep independently correlated with these sexual dysfunctions, suggesting that oxygen deprivation resulting from obstructive sleep apnea is a specific contributor to them.
OSA has also been found to contribute to sexual dysfunction in women.
A 2017 study published by Urololgy Journal notes that research investigating the connections between OSA and sexual dysfunction in men is more developed than that which studies sexual function in women with OSA. The study therefore focused on 22 premenopausal women diagnosed with OSA to address this dearth of scientific literature.
The study found that, in comparison with the normal population, several measures of sexual function were negatively impacted in the women with OSA, including:
Treating sleep apnea can improve both your sleep and sex drive.
Sleep apnea can decrease levels of testosterone in men and subsequently result in decreased sex drive, according to Mayo Clinic. Fortunately, sleep apnea treatment can reverse this testosterone loss and thereby restore sex drive.
Mayo Clinic reports that some effective ways to treat sleep apnea include:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy
- Oral appliance therapy
- Treatment of associated conditions such as heart or neuromuscular disorders
- Supplemental oxygen
- Adaptive airflow devices that learn your breathing patterns and apply air pressure accordingly
Both men and women are affected by sleep apnea, and can experience sexual dysfunction as a result of the disorder. If you or your partner has sleep apnea, speak to your health care provider about treatment options in order to support a healthy intimate relationship.
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