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Men Who Snore or Wake Frequently Face Increased Risk of Erection Problems

Erection Problems

Sleepiness and concentration issues may not be the only challenges faced by blokes who frequently wake up after a bad night’s sleep. According to UK health experts, men should be paying attention to what’s happening below the belt because sleep problems could be causing havoc with their erections.

There is evidence to suggest that sleep apnoea may contribute to the development or worsening of erectile dysfunction (ED), a condition set to affect 322 million men by 2025.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder which causes interruptions in breathing during sleep. These interruptions, known as apneas, can take place multiple times throughout the night and may last for several seconds to minutes.

This repetitive waking throughout the night not only impacts on a person’s alertness, mood and energy levels, but it can also affect the way blood moves around the body.

“Intermittent drops in oxygen, caused by repeated pauses in breathing, affect the ability of blood vessels to dilate properly” explains Abbas Kanani, superintendent pharmacist of Chemist Click. He continues “Impaired blood vessel function can lead to difficulties in achieving or maintaining an erection”.

The condition can also cause increased sympathetic nervous system activity, which can affect erectile function.

“Heightened sympathetic activity can cause vasoconstriction where blood vessels become constricted and interfere with the mechanisms involved in achieving an erection” says the pharmacist.

Stimulation of the sympathetic system is also responsible for increasing heart rate and blood pressure. 

“Chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system can impact cardiovascular health negatively which is closely linked to erectile function”.

Stress and anxiety, which can be heightened by sleep apnoea, contribute to erectile difficulties too. Psychological factors can create a cycle where performance anxiety about erectile function leads to further sympathetic activation, exacerbating the problem.

The pharmacist also advises that men should be aware of hormonal fluctuations “because disruptions in hormone levels can cause you problems down below.”

“Hormone levels, including testosterone, decrease as men age. Testosterone is the primary hormone associated with the male libido, and a low testosterone level can affect a man’s sex drive”.

Men typically experience the effects of ED at increasing rates as they naturally age.  It is estimated that half of all men between the ages of 40 and 70 will have it to some degree.

Sleep is essential to our bodies and vital for maintaining good mental and physical health. Fragmented or poor-quality sleep affects mood, energy levels, and libido, potentially contributing to erectile difficulties on a regular basis.

Another risk factor ED are health conditions, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, which are often associated with sleep apnea.

“Nerve and artery damage caused by diabetes can make achieving an erection difficult” says Mr Kanani.

The main symptoms of sleep apnoea are:

  • your breathing stops and starts while you sleep
  •  you make gasping, snorting or choking noises while you sleep
  •  you always feel very tired during the day

Sleep apnoea can sometimes be treated by making lifestyle changes like through weight loss, quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol intake.  These changes can also be beneficial for erectile dysfunction symptoms too.

Sleep apnoea can be serious if it’s not diagnosed and treated. Without treatment it can lead to other health problems including high blood pressure, increased risk of having a stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and depression or mood changes. It can also put you at risk of having a serious accident caused by tiredness and difficulty concentrating at work or school.

The pharmacist advises “If you’re experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea or erectile dysfunction, it’s important to speak to your GP for an assessment and appropriate treatment”.

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