Sleep Apnea’s Effect on Sex Drive and Sexual Function

Sleep Apnea’s Effect on Sex Drive and Sexual Function

Sleep Apnea’s Effect on Sex Drive and Sexual Function

It seems to be common knowledge these days that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is tied to troubling health issues including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. However, fewer people are aware that sleep apnea and its consequences can result in a wide range of sexual health issues, including libido, sexual function, and intimacy. In addition, both men and women can suffer these problems if they are not properly treated for their sleep apnea.

The side effects of sleep apnea—fatigue, high blood pressure, risk of heart disease and stroke—are pretty well-known. But one thing that’s not as widely documented is sleep apnea’s effect on sex.

Sleep Apnea & Sexual Health: The Studies

Within the past two decades, a large number of studies have confirmed that sleep apnea can affect a number of different facets of a person’s sex life, from their sex drive to their hormone levels, to their erectile function. Below, we will highlight just a few of the recent studies involving sleep apnea and sexual health.

  • A 2009 study found that a staggering 69 percent of men with diagnosed OSA suffered from erectile dysfunction, compared with just 34 percent of people without sleep apnea. The study examined 401 adult men and corrected for factors such as age and weight.
  • A 2011 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women suffering from untreated sleep apnea had higher rates of sexual dysfunction and sexual difficulties. The study, which compared 80 women with sleep apnea to 240 women without the sleep disorder, found that no matter how mild or severe the OSA, women were negatively affected by their condition.
  • Researchers at the Walter Reed Military Medical Center found that a significant number of men who treat their sleep apnea see a large improvement in their sexual function and sexual satisfaction. The study followed 92 men with an average age of 46 who had been diagnosed with OSA and who were being treated with CPAP therapy.
  • A 2008 sleep apnea study of 15 patients who underwent maxillomandibular advancement (MMA) surgery (also known as bimaxillary advancement surgery) found that, six months after the operation, a statistically significant number noted an increase in satisfaction with intimacy and sex.
  • A 2007 study of 25 women with obstructive sleep apnea found that all aspects of sexual functioning were were affected by the sleep disorder save two: enjoyment and pain. The study excluded women with genital deformity, postmenopausal women, and women without a regular partner and controlled for factors like age and c0-morbid diseases.
  • A 2011 sleep apnea study focused on sexual hormone levels and sleep apnea found that disrupted sleep caused by sleep apnea affects the testosterone levels of both men and women. Testosterone is a hormone that affects sex drive in both sexes.

Why Does Sleep Apnea Hurt Sex Drive?

While research is showing that OSA can hinder many aspects of patients’ sex lives, the answer to why the relationship exists is more difficult. First and foremost, physicians believe that the lack of deep sleep caused by sleep apnea affects sex hormones that drive our libido. In addition, sleep apnea often leaves patients drowsy, unable to focus, and fatigued – not a recipe for a happy sex life. Finally, sleep apnea negatively affects blood pressure, weight, and overall health, which in turn could affect sexual function. But there’s good news: treatment for sleep apnea can make a difference.

The CPAP—a device that’s worn while sleeping and keeps the airway from closing can diminish or alleviate sleep apnea, and doesn’t have to interfere with intimacy. Plus, Ochman said, people who are treated for their sleep apnea are 60 percent more likely to be compliant with their treatment plan if their spouses sleep in the same bedroom.

Other things that can help:
Keep your weight in a healthy range: Excess weight is a primary risk factor for sleep apnea in both men and women.
Don’t light up: Smoking increases the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
Get regular exercise: Exercise helps keep weight in check, plus, when combined with CPAP therapy, helps improve sleep apnea.
Use your CPAP nightly and Keep the romance alive: The relationship between sleep and sex needs more research, especially for women, but improving the quality of your sleep is likely to benefit your sex life.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this.