We know that sleep apnea increases the risk of erectile dysfunction, but a new study suggests that the severity of sleep apnea may not matter. Instead, depression may play a key role.
Impacts Men at All Levels of Sleep Apnea
In this study, researchers reviewed data for 713 men who were treated at Seoul National Hospital for snoring or daytime sleepiness from 2006 to 2014. The men underwent a polysomnography at a sleep lab, and it was determined that 93% of the men had sleep apnea.
They found that men with more severe sleep apnea were likely to be older and more overweight, but they didn’t have an increased risk of erectile dysfunction. Men with mild or moderate sleep apnea were just as likely to have erectile dysfunction.
But when they looked at their data, they found that men with depression and low quality of life were more likely to have erectile dysfunction. Accounting for age, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, and diabetes, men with depression were twice as likely to have erectile dysfunction. Additional corrections like breathing ability and quality of life reduced the increased risk to just 68%, but is still highly significant.
Which Caused Which?
Unfortunately, the design of the study, which looks just at the health records for patients at a single point, can’t tell us whether depression leads to erectile dysfunction or whether men with erectile dysfunction are more likely to be depressed or to report a low quality of life. There is research to support that depression causes erectile dysfunction as well as that erectile dysfunction causes depression.
Future studies will have to be designed to, first, confirm the results of this study, and, second, show the causal role of depression in erectile dysfunction.
But what we do know is that treating sleep apnea can help treat many of the symptoms and side effects. Sleep apnea treatment reduces depression , and it can also reduce erectile dysfunction.