Sleep Can Cause…Yes, Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
Sleep deprivation can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). This often comes as a shock to most men and, in cases where men deal with ED, it can be a sign of hope because it can be easily fixed if sleep is causing the ED. Sleep deprivation can affect your sex life in several ways:
· Reduced sex drive (libido)
· Inability to get an erection
· Inability to perform (maintain an erection)
Sleep deprivation is caused when you get less than your optimal sleep period, which for adults is 7-9 hours per day. A couple nights of sleep deprivation is not likely to cause ED, though you may feel less libido in that time period. Usually, we are talking about chronic sleep deprivation as a cause of ED and reduced libido.
Why Sleep is Important for Sex Drive
Sleep is important for sex drive because testosterone is mostly produced when you sleep. Testosterone is a hormone that is absolutely essential for having a strong libido, as well as for general sexual health and erectile function. With diminished levels of testosterone, a man will experience reduced sexual desire and sexual performance.
Case in point, a recent study examined erectile dysfunction and testosterone levels in 207 men with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to repeatedly stop breathing and then rouse to begin breathing many times throughout the night, causing moderate to severe sleep deprivation. These statistics are pretty telling:
· 61% of men in the study suffered from ED
· 72% of men with severe sleep apnea has ED
· Persons with severe sleep apnea had significantly lower testosterone levels than men with mild sleep apnea
· Other studies have been remarkably consistent with their findings, with several other studies citing the ED sleep apnea link at 40%, 46%, 61% (referenced above), 64%, and 69%
Another study found that in 531 men, patients who slept 4 hours or less had half as much testosterone as patients who sleep 8+ hours.
Testosterone levels normally peak in the morning and are lowest point before we fall asleep. In other words, sleep is like filling up your testosterone gas tank to be used throughout the day.
Sleep is important for more than just sexual function, but all aspects of health
Sleep Deprivation Side Effects That Affect Erectile Performance
Testosterone is the only factor in sexual drive and performance. Other mediating factors include:
· Dopamine receptors
Dopamine is a hormone that is a necessary component for men to feel sexual desire, and plays an important role in the process of getting an erection. Dopamine receptors are responsible for dopamine uptake. Sleep is of paramount importance for ensuring that dopamine receptors are healthy and functioning. The takeaway:
1. Less sleep leads to poorly functioning dopamine receptors
2. Bad receptors lead to less dopamine uptake
3. Less dopamine uptake can significantly affect sexual desire and erectile performance
Cortisol is a “stress hormone” that also increased when you are sleep deprived, and can impact testosterone and stress level, which in turn may also impact sex drive and performance.
How to Repay Sleep Debt and Get Libido Back
If you are sleep deprived, it means you have a sleep debt that you need to “pay back”. The word debt is misleading because your sleep debt doesn’t work like money – you can’t just pay your debt back in a lump sum. Here’s an example of how this DOESN’T work:
· You require 7 hours of sleep to get full rest
· Monday through Friday you get 6 hours of sleep per night, for an effective “debt” of 5 hours
· On Friday night and Saturday night, you sleep an extra few hours
Sleep studies show that getting one or two long nights of sleep do not remove the effects of sleep deprivation. You might feel good for the hours proceeding a long night of rest, but the effects of sleep deprivation will persist.
The actual way you repay your sleep debt is by establishing a healthy pattern of sleep over time. In the same scenario above, what you would want to do to repay your sleep debt is:
· Get extra sleep on the weekend
· Get enough or a little bit of extra sleep every day the following week
Repaying sleep debt involves consistent, restful sleep until the effects of sleep deprivation are gone. If you are dealing with sleep deprivation and ED, repaying your sleep debt may solve your problem.
Sleep disorders may cause you to be unable to repay your sleep debt and remain chronically sleep deprived. Take this free online sleep test for more information and get back to healthy bedtime living.