Erectile dysfunction (ED) is one of the least discussed side effects of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), but can have the biggest impact on your life. The good news is that your CPAP machine can probably help. Research is increasingly finding that when OSA is managed with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment, it can help with ED.
What’s the link between ED and OSA?
A 2009 study in Germany found that OSA was diagnosed in over 90 percent of the study subjects that had ED.1 Those researchers suspected the sexual function issue was due to the low levels of oxygen in the blood caused by the effects of sleep apnea.1 A lack of sleep has been proven to lower men's desire for sex too: researchers at the University of Chicago found one week of sleep deprivation can lower testosterone levels by 15 percent.2
How does CPAP therapy help?
By using your CPAP to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you might also benefit from a better sex life. A study of 21 male patients with moderate to severe OSA and ED found that CPAP treatment improved sexual functionality via the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) in men.3 Not surprisingly, it had a positive effect on the partners of those in the study too, all female in this case.3 Measurements including the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) were both significantly improved.3 The data indicated benefits for nasal CPAP therapy on sexual functioning in both the male and female partners.3 The research also suggested that improved sexual function in women after their male partner underwent nasal CPAP came with additional psychological benefits. 3
Another study, conducted in 2018, consisting of 182 people—63.2 percent of whom were men with an average age of 47.2 years—found sexual quality of life improved with CPAP therapy as measured with the Symptoms of Nocturnal Obstruction and Related Events-25 (SNORE-25) quality of life survey.4
From the above studies and it’s clear that CPAP therapy can offer benefits far beyond a good night's sleep. Another excellent reason to maintain your CPAP routine.
1 Budweiser S, Enderlein S, Jörres RA, Hitzl AP, Wieland WF, Pfeifer M, Arzt M. Sleep apnea is an independent correlate of erectile and sexual dysfunction. J Sex Med. 2009 Nov;6(11):3147-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01372.x. Epub 2009 Jun 29. PMID: 19570042.
2 Leproult, Rachel, and Eve Van Cauter. “Effect of 1 week of sleep restriction on testosterone levels in young healthy men.” JAMA vol. 305,21 (2011): 2173-4. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.710
3 Acar, M., Kaya, C., Catli, T. et al. Effects of nasal continuous positive airway pressure therapy on partners’ sexual lives. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 273, 133–137 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00405-015-3546-4
4 Jara SM, Hopp ML, Weaver EM. Association of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Treatment With Sexual Quality of Life in Patients With Sleep Apnea: Follow-up Study of a Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018;144(7):587–593. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2018.0485