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Erectile Dysfunction

Jun 16, 2021
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In recognition of Men’s Health Month, it's important to talk about the dangerous health effects that sleep apnea has on men, including Erectile Dysfunction (ED), high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, and why men are 2x as likely to develop OSA.

The purpose of Men’s Health Month in June is to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems among men and encourage early detection and treatment of disease.  It gives healthcare providers the opportunity to highlight how they are able to help men seek advice and preventative treatment for a variety of diseases and injuries. 

According to a survey developed by MensHealthNetwork.org in partnership with Chattem, Inc.,  90% of men in the U.S. want to take charge of their own health with nearly 1 in 3 men (30%) saying sexual health is one of the most important elements of their overall health and wellness.

At Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine, we are eager to participate in Men’s Health Week by sharing information on the effects of sleep apnea and how a number of studies have shown that the disorder is much more common in men than women.


Sleep apnea is a common disorder characterized by frequent nighttime breathing disruptions. It often goes undiagnosed and can cause significant problems. Sleep apnea can disrupt your health, get in the way of your daily routines, and negatively affect your performance at school, in the workplace, and even while driving.

Anyone can develop sleep apnea, including children.  The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that 26% of adults in the U.S. age 30 to 70 years are affected.

There are several types of sleep apnea, but the most common is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This occurs when the muscles in your throat relax so much during sleep that they obstruct your airway. Your body responds by gasping for air, a process that disrupts your sleep. More than half of people with obstructive sleep apnea are either overweight or obese, which is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25-29.9 or 30.0 or above, respectively. In adults, excess weight is the strongest risk factor associated with obstructive sleep apnea.

But, since we are focusing on Men’s Health Month, let’s talk about the effects of sleep apnea on men and some of the more significant comorbidities that are associated with the disorder.  The fact is that men are MORE THAN TWICE as likely as women to develop a sleep disorder!


It is believed that differences in upper airway shape between men and women could potentially increase the risk for OSA  by making the airway more likely to collapse during sleep. Studies in normal subjects using acoustic reflection have shown that the upper airway is larger in men than in women.


Sleep disorders can also affect your testosterone and oxygen levels and can lead to numerous health issues.  Because of how it affects oxygen balance in the body, sleep apnea raises dangers for various types of cardiovascular issues, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.  Testosterone and oxygen are also both important for a healthy erection and researchers suggested that stress and fatigue related to lack of sleep may make sexual problems worse. 

According to experts, sexual function and desire are closely linked to the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS causes your body to react to stressors (good or bad). Part of the ANS that reacts to good stimulators plays an important part in sexual arousal. The part of the ANS that responds to negative triggers, like stress, becomes more sensitive when people do not get enough sleep.

In a 2009 Journal of Sexual Medicine Study, researchers found that 69% of male participants diagnosed with OSA also had ED. 


So, if men really want to take charge of their own health and if 1 in 3 men say that sexual health is one of the most important elements of their overall health and wellness, seeking treatment for sleep apnea is absolutely vital!

Fortunately, there are a few helpful solutions to this common problem.  Studies showed that men who underwent treatment for sleep apnea saw improvement in their ED, although the degree of improvement varied. At least one study showed that about 40% of men were able to return to normal sexual function just by treating their sleep apnea.  


One common method of treating OSA is by using CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. The steady flow of air from a CPAP machine keeps the airway open and restores normal oxygen levels during sleep. This helps maintain a steady, healthy level of breathing through the night.  However, a recent recall on nearly 4 million Bi-Level and CPAP machines and ventilators forced the company, Philips, to recommend that patients discontinue use of the equipment due to foam that might degrade and become toxic, possibly causing cancer.  

A recent study compared CPAP and oral appliance therapy and found that only oral appliance therapy led to significant improvements in quality of life for men with ED.  So when CPAP is not an option, or you prefer a different approach, a certified Dental Sleep Medicine specialist can custom fit you with an oral appliance that is a comparable alternative to CPAP.

These devices are custom-fit by a certified sleep dentist and worn in your mouth while you sleep and help keep your airway open. They are noninvasive and nonintrusive, offering a custom fit, and are comfortable to wear.

If you’re suffering from sleep apnea, and possibly erectile dysfunction,  schedule an appointment with Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine online or by phone today to explore your options. Our team of specialists has guided more than 20,000 patients through sleep apnea treatment and each of our Pennsylvania offices in Monroeville, McMurray, and Wexford has a provider that is board-certified through the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine.