An unexpected benefit of treating OSA: Increased libido
By Gina Roberts-Grey
A host of research has uncovered an unexpected benefit to using continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): a better sex life.
A study conducted by Walter Reed Hospital looked at 92 men under the age of 60 with OSA who had just begun using CPAP therapy. Forty-six percent of the men reported having erectile dysfunction and 27 percent reported a diminished libido.
After six months of using the machine, most of the men in the study reported improved sexual function and satisfaction, and erectile dysfunction (ED) vanished in 41 percent of those who’d had erection issues.
“We were surprised at how many of these relatively young men had ED,” said Dr. Joseph W. Dombrowsky, the study’s lead researcher, in reporting the findings. “We were similarly surprised at how robust a clinically significant response the men had with CPAP therapy.”
A lack of sleep has been proven to lower men’s desire for sex: Researchers at the University of Chicago found one week of sleep deprivation can lower testosterone levels by 15 percent to as much as 33 percent. But while there seems to be a clear link between CPAP and sex, it’s unclear why or how CPAP seems to enhance libido.
A separate study published by the Mayo Sleep Center in Phoenix noted OSA’s connection to erectile dysfunction and sexual satisfaction may exist because of a combination of neural, hormonal and cardiovascular effects, all of which impact sexual performance.
“Nothing has been nailed down yet, but we can postulate that improving oxygenation at night or sleeping better improves your energy and libido,” Dombrowsky said in a press release.
It’s clear CPAP therapy can offer benefits far beyond a good night’s sleep.