Erectile dysfunction due to sleep apnea is treatable. This is the message from Dr. David Gozal, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Louisville and author of a recent study into the effects of oxygen deprivation on sexual behavior. The study, published in the September issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, simulated the effects of chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) on a range of sexual behaviors in mice. Following treatment with tadalafil, results were evaluated positively.
After a period of simulating conditions relating to oxygen starvation by people with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS), mice were observed to lose 55 percent of daily spontaneous erections. After five weeks, the length of time between attempts at mating had increased by 60-fold, on average. "Even relatively short periods of CIH...are associated with significant effects on sexual activity and erectile function," Gozal states.
Researchers also found that whilst oxygen starvation has no effect on levels of testosterone and estradiol, it produces a significant reduction of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). eNOS has an important role in male sexual activity and is increased by drugs such as Viagra (sildenafil).
When ordinary levels of oxygen were returned to mice, even mice who had only been exposed to one week of oxygen starvation, only recovered 74 percent of their original erectile function. However, in the second phase of the experiment mice were given the drug tadalafil. In almost all cases the treatment had the effect of improving sexual function to near normal levels.
John Heffner, former president of the American Thoracic Society, gave a cautious welcome to the findings stating, "a strong biologic plausibility exists that similar findings will be observed in humans." Dr. Gozal, who undertook the study, says further studies are required in order to investigate the effects of disrupted sleep on the central nervous system as this mediates sexual drive.
Published On: September 15, 2008