Sleep and erectile dysfunction

Did you sleep well last night? No? Perhaps you have a sleep condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which affects some 18 million Americans, or about one in every 15 people. Men are more likely than women to develop OSA, and men who are middle-aged and overweight are especially susceptible. Obstructive sleep apnea also is often accompanied by erectile dysfunction. [1]

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea. In people who have this condition, the airway becomes blocked or collapses while they are sleeping. This causes them to experience breathing pauses and/or shallow breaths. The pauses can last several seconds or longer, and they can occur 30 times or more per hour.

OSA causes people to transition from deep sleep to a light slumber that typically leaves them tired or even exhausted the next day. Because there are no tests doctors can conduct during an office visit to identify obstructive sleep apnea and no blood test is useful, the condition often goes undiagnosed unless the person’s bed partner notices the breathing problem.

But OSA may not be the only problem bed partners notice. Experts have been studying the combination of sleep apnea and erectile dysfunction, and here are some of their findings.

Studies Of Sleep Apnea And Erectile Dysfunction

Researchers from Mount Sinai Medical Center explored the relationship between OSA and erectile dysfunction in 870 middle-aged men who were part of a cardiac screening program. Results of the study were presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Urological Association in May 2011. [2]

The average body mass index of the men was 30.2 (30.0 is considered obese), and 63 percent of the men were found to have OSA. Among the study group, 29 percent had a history of smoking and 5.6 percent had diabetes. Obesity, smoking and diabetes are all risk factors for OSA.

After making adjustments for age and other health problems, the researchers found that the men who had erectile dysfunction were more than twice as likely to have OSA than the normal men in the study. In fact, the chances of having the sleep problem increased as the severity of erectile dysfunction increased. This finding led the authors of the study to suggest that men who have erectile dysfunction should be screened for OSA.

In another study, experts questioned 62 men who had recently been diagnosed with OSA about their erectile function. Their answers revealed that 64.4 percent of the men had erectile dysfunction. Other risk factors for erectile dysfunction noted by the authors included age, diabetes, high blood pressure (and medication to treat it) as well as smoking. [3]


In Spain, investigators set out to identify the factors that can influence the occurrence of erectile dysfunction in men with obstructive sleep apnea. Among the 142 men (mean age, 53 years) in the study, 69 percent had erectile dysfunction. The highest prevalence of erectile dysfunction was seen in men who had more severe OSA. After allowing for other factors, those associated with erectile dysfunction in the study were age and high cholesterol. [4]

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious health condition that can be life-threatening if it is not diagnosed and treated. In fact, individuals who have sleep apnea have a fourfold increased risk of stroke and about a threefold increased risk of heart disease. [5] Based on recent study results, a majority of men who have obstructive sleep apnea also suffer with erectile dysfunction. Therefore, men who have erectile dysfunction should consult with their healthcare provider to determine if obstructive sleep apnea may be a factor.


[1] Sleep apnea statistics:

[2]Studies link quality of sleep to erectile dysfunction, other urologic conditions.

[3]Erectile dysfunction in obstructive sleep apnea syndrome–prevalence and determinants.

[4]Factors related with the presence of erectile dysfunction in patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

[5] Sleep apnea statistics:


Dr. Geo Espinosa

By Dr. Geo Espinosa

Dr. Geo Espinosa is a naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist and certified functional medicine practitioner recognized as an authority in holistic urology and men’s health. He is Clinical Assistant Professor and holistic clinician in Urology at New York University Langone Medical Center. As an avid researcher and writer, Dr. Geo has authored numerous scientific papers and books including co-editing the Integrative Sexual Health book, and author of the best selling prostate cancer book: Thrive, Don't Only Survive.