Obstructive sleep apnea affects more than 12 million people nationwide. Daytime sleepiness and weight gain are usually the first symptoms that come to mind. Intimacy problems are an oft-overlooked aspect of untreated sleep-disordered breathing. Sleep apnea can cause erectile dysfunction in men and a loss of libido in women.
A recent study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine looked at the prevalence of sexual dysfunction in women with sleep apnea. A sample of 80 women diagnosed with sleep apnea and 240 women without the disorder completed questionnaires about sexuality. Findings show female patients with sleep apnea had much higher rates of sexual problems.
A similar study conducted in 2009 used questionnaires to examine the prevalence of erectile dysfunction and sexual problems in men with sleep apnea. Almost 70 percent of men diagnosed with sleep apnea had erectile dysfunction, compared to 34 percent without the sleep disorder.
Sexual dysfunction may be linked to sex hormones such as testosterone. These hormones rise with sleep and drop when sleep duration or quality is insufficient. Brief wakings from sleep apnea secretly wreak havoc on your sleep quality, which can lower hormone levels.
Before you turn to that ubiquitous little blue triangle for help, find out if sleep apnea is causing your sex problems. The easiest way to know for sure is by getting an overnight sleep study at an AASM-Accredited Member Sleep Center. Common treatments for sleep apnea such as CPAP or oral appliance therapy can improve your sleep quality and intimacy so you won’t need to take a pill every time you want to be intimate.