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Besides its other well known side effects like fatigue, hypertension and obesity, sleep apnea can also lead to erectile dysfunction in men and loss of libido in women. This happens because of a fall in the levels of sex hormones due to sleep deprivation.

Sexual Dysfunction is commonly seen in Patients Suffering from Sleep Apnea

Have you of late been steadily losing interest in bedroom activities? In case that is true, think about getting yourself tested for sleep apnea. More and more studies done in the recent past have concluded that sexual dysfunction is commonly seen in patients suffering from sleep apnea.


Central sleep apnea occurs when the muscles participating in respiration do not function optimally. This is a result of the poor quality of signals sent by the brain.

Whether it is obstructive sleep apnea or central sleep apnea, the person is awakened from the middle of his sleep because of shortness of breath. These episodes can occur several times every night. As a result, the patients of sleep apnea suffer from fragmented sleep and wake up sleepy in the morning.

The disrupted pattern of sleep and lack of a sound sleep can give rise to multiple health problems like type II diabetes, hypertension and other heart related ailments. Besides these, an impaired sleep can lead to poor attention, reduced memory, decreased alertness and increased response time. It is one of the leading causes of depression.

Apart from these problems, a patient of sleep apnea cuts down on his social engagements as he tends to blame them for his disrupted sleep schedule. A sound sleep is also essential for a healthy sex life. The reduced energy levels and the feeling of tiredness and sleepiness reduce a person’s interest in sex.

Sexual Dysfunction associated with Sleep Apnea may be Attributed to Low Testosterone and Reduced Oxygen

In a study, the researchers examined young men, who had either not slept for several days or had disrupted sleep. It was seen that these men had significantly low levels of testosterone. Normally, testosterone is produced while a man is sleeping and the levels of the hormone show an increasing trend throughout the night and reach a maximum during the early morning hours.

Sleep deprivation can lead to impaired production of testosterone. Besides, the optimal hormone production is also affected by the quality of sleep. It is the maximum during REM sleep. A person whose sleep is disrupted because of sleep apnea and hence does not go through the REM phase of sleep is likely to have low levels of testosterone and suffer from erectile dysfunction.


Researchers have found the reason behind erectile dysfunction in men because of sleep apnea. But the reason behind the decreased libido in women suffering from sleep apnea is still not very clear. It is likely to be because of the decreased level of oxygen in the blood circulating in the brain. Thus we see that sexual dysfunction associated with sleep apnea may be attributed to low testosterone and reduced oxygen.

But the patients suffering from sleep apnea need not be discouraged. It has been seen that wearing masks to provide continuous positive airway pressure or undergoing corrective facial surgeries may benefit these patients and help improve their sexual function.

  • “Really? The Claim: Sleep Apnea Causes Sexual Problems”, by Anahad O’ Connor, The New York Times, published on October 10, 2011, accessed on November 4, 2011. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/10/really-the-claim-sleep-apnea-causes-sexual-problems/
  • “Sleep Apnea May Cause Sexual Dysfunction Women As Well As Men”, by Cara M, Street Articles, published on October 14, 2011, accessed on November 4, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.streetarticles.com/health-and-fitness/sleep-apnea-may-cause-sexual-dysfunction-women-as-well-as-men
  • “Sexual Function in Female Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea”, Petersen M, et al, The Journal of Sexual Medicine, published in September 2011, accessed on November 4, 2011. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02358.x/abstract
  • “Sexual dysfunction in women with obstructive sleep apnea”, by Subramanian S, et al, Sleep Breath, published on August 11, 2009, accessed on November 4, 2011. Retrieved from http://sleepassociation.org/abstract-sexual-dysfunction-in-women-with-obstructive-sleep-apnea.html
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