Erectile Dysfunction and Sleep Apnea: What’s the Connection?Erectile dysfunction and obstructive sleep apnea are both common conditions suffered by men as they age or experience changes in health conditions, but did you know that they could be linked? New research is suggesting that this is the case, and men with erectile dysfunction are now being encouraged to be evaluated for sleep apnea as well. What was once thought to be a physiological condition may now have a fairly simple cause … then again, the verdict is still out on exactly how erectile dysfunction and obstructive sleep apnea are related.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
To get to the root of the problem, it’s important to understand what sleep apnea is and how it affects the body. In a nutshell, apnea is a condition that occurs when a person’s airways become partially blocked. Sleep apnea occurs, obviously, during sleep. When someone suffers from an obstructed airway, breathing can become shallow or labored. In most cases, snoring also occurs.
There are a number of causes of sleep apnea, including being overweight. Enlarged tonsils can also cause an obstructed airway. Another type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea, a condition in which the brain’s electrical system malfunctions and fails to send the right signals to the muscles that control breathing. This type of sleep apnea is rarer than obstructive sleep apnea and is more difficult to treat.
In addition, diet can play a part in suffering from sleep apnea. Alcohol, for instance, may make you sleepy, but its effects on the body and the mind throughout the night can lead to difficulty breathing. This can be due to dehydration, but it can also be caused by withdrawal as the alcohol is metabolized.
Work stress, along with other stressors, can lead to erectile dysfunction.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction, while common, carries with it a litany of potential causes, many of which are related directly to the cardiovascular system. Heart disease, which could encompass a range of conditions, is one of the most common reasons for men to develop erectile dysfunction. Things such as clogged blood vessels can be the culprit, but so can high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Once again, it commonly comes back to the cardiovascular system.
Diabetes is another common cause of erectile dysfunction, as is obesity. These problems may be able to be reversed with lifestyle changes, which seems to be a common theme in treating both sleep apnea and erectile dysfunction. More and more, scientific medical evidence points to a healthy lifestyle as the key to treating and solving a variety of illnesses. Of course, for some, sexual health medications are required in order to remedy the situation.
Then again, there are some conditions, such as metabolic syndrome and Parkinson’s disease that lead to erectile dysfunction. While medications exist to treat such conditions, there has, so far, been no found cure to eliminate them. If you’re considering treating your erectile dysfunction with medications, you need to speak with your doctor and be thoroughly evaluated prior to engaging in any sexual activity to ensure that you are healthy enough for sex, despite how effective such medications are.
How Sleep Apnea is Linked to Erectile Dysfunction
Current research has yet to prove conclusively how the two are linked, but studies have shown a high correlation. One theory is that because someone with obstructive sleep apnea is not getting quality sleep, levels of testosterone are not where they need to be. Keep in mind that you don’t have to consciously wake up for the brain to be sleep deprived. Difficulty breathing triggers certain areas of the brain to become alert, even if you are not. When this happens, the brain can’t rest, and therefore, it does not produce the chemicals the body needs in order to be in peak condition.
In addition, men who suffer from poor sleep are often more stressed throughout the day, and stress is a main component in erectile dysfunction issues for some men. Basically, you can’t get in the mood if you’re worn down and tired.
Finally, men who have obstructed breathing during the night may not be getting enough oxygen, and this can play a role in failing to achieve an erection as well. This may be a problem only during sleep, but as the body begins its waking hours, the lack of oxygen during the night may also factor into sexual performance and the ability to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. This may then translate into difficulty achieving an erection, even hours after waking.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
Thankfully, obstructive sleep apnea is fairly easy to treat. The most common treatment solution is to use continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. CPAP devices are worn during the night and they provide a steady flow of air pressure into the mouth and down the throat. This pressure keeps the airway open and free of obstructions so the user can breathe freely. Also available are nasal dilators that help the user to breathe easier.
Most doctors recommend lifestyle changes as well, including losing weight and exercising. Exercise is a great way to wind down at the end of the day, but it shouldn’t be done right before bed as it may keep you awake. If you consume alcohol, consider cutting back to a healthy amount, which is considered to be two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Likewise, tobacco cessation is a good idea if you’re a smoker, and caffeinated beverages should be cut off around 7 pm.
Erectile Dysfunction Treatments
Concurrent to seeking treatment for sleep apnea, you can also take advantage of the array of erectile dysfunction treatments available today. By and large, the best options for treating erectile dysfunction are medications, such as Viagra. Most such medications act to dilate blood vessels, allowing for a stronger flow of blood to regions where it is needed. Most men respond very positively to erectile dysfunction medications, and when used in conjunction with sleep apnea treatments, overall health typically improves.
As mentioned, stress can play a large role in the development of erectile dysfunction, so it’s also recommended that you find ways to de-stress yourself often. Communication with your partner is also a key in this as she needs to know how you feel. Talking about and through problems can go a long way in handling them.
Also, regular exercise and a good diet may also assist you in warding off erectile dysfunction. Physical health is as important as mental health when it comes to achieving an erection and enjoying sexual activity.
The Dangers of Not Treating Sleep Apnea
In the end, obstructive sleep apnea is not only harmful, potentially leading to erectile dysfunction … it can even be fatal. When you’re unconscious and are having a hard time breathing, even when the brain is alert, it is possible for the body to stop breathing entirely. Death may result if the unconscious body is not in direct communication with the brain. Essentially, sudden cardiac arrest may occur due to sleep apnea, and because many sufferers don’t even realize that they are afflicted, some men could be on the verge of death every single night without a clue.The Dangers of Not Treating Erectile Dysfunction
Although erectile dysfunction may seem like an annoyance to many people, it can be life-altering for people suffering. As mentioned a few times, stress can lead to erectile dysfunction and potentially to sleep apnea. This then becomes a vicious cycle in which sleep apnea becomes worse, leading to more stress, and then the stress of not being able to perform leads to more stress, thereby leading to worse sleep apnea.
Furthermore, many men suffering from erectile dysfunction find themselves at a loss, especially at first, with how to explain their situations to their partners. This can lead to arguments, resentment, and hurt feelings on both sides, thus leading to more stress. When a man has trouble achieving an erection, his partner may feel like she is less than desirable. The man suffering from erectile dysfunction will likely also feel that he is not able to provide the sexual stimulation needed in a healthy romantic relationship.
Such a cycle can leave men unable to fix either condition, and in such cases, medications may only be a temporary fix. To truly use erectile dysfunction medications to their fullest, you’ll need a combination of the medication in conjunction with stress reduction, relaxation, and peace of mind. This can also be true sleep apnea, so your treatment approach needs to be overarching.
Contact eDrugstore for the Latest in Sexual Health Medications
If you’ve been suffering from a diagnosed condition of erectile dysfunction, or if you’re considering the possibility that erectile dysfunction is developing, Access RX can help. We offer a variety of name-brand sexual health medications that, when used according to your physician’s instructions, can help you to regain the ability to experience sexual health and live the life you want. To learn more about our sexual health solutions, contact our experts today!
Andrew Rusnak is an author who writes on topics that include sexual health and medical technology.