This is *not* a pediatric posting.
A few years ago I spent some time in an adult sleep medicine clinic, getting training in sleep medicine. Many of the patients presenting with obstructive sleep apnea (a condition where the throat collapses during sleep, causing the patient to choke and startle) had probably had it for years, but stubbornly resisted seeing a physician to get evaluated and treated for it. Some had been banished from their bedroom because their snoring was so loud. Others found themselves falling asleep in traffic while stopped for a few moments at a red light. Many suffered from high blood pressure, heart disease, and poor sugar control. Their health, marriages, and overall quality of life were being severely impacted by the disorder, yet they had to be dragged into clinic by their wives to get help for it.
Much has been written of the fact that women are more comfortable going to see their doctor than men. Women have many interactions with doctors over the years during their pregnancies, and then afterwards while accompanying their children to their doctors' visits (in my practice, at least, women accompanying their children to a doctor's appointment outnumber men by about 5 to 2). Most men, on the other hand, don't typically see the doctor until after their first heart attack. Still, one would think that when burdened with such a debilitating condition that so negatively affects their health and interpersonal relationships, they would seek help sooner.
Some time ago, while doing research for a monograph I was writing, I came across a very interesting piece of medical research with findings that may spur men with obstructive sleep apnea to seek help for it much earlier.
In a study published in "The Journal of Sexual Medicine" (yes, there is such a thing) on June 29, 2009, a group from Donaustauf, Germany found that obstructive sleep apnea was independently associated with erectile dysfunction. They surveyed and examined 401 men referred to a sleep lab to see if they had sleep apnea, and found that 69% of the men with sleep apnea had erectile dysfunction, versus 34% of the men without it. Similar results were obtained for measures looking at sexual function and dysfunction. Abnormally low baseline oxygen levels while asleep were also found to correlate in a similar way.
The bottom line: the more you snore, the more likely you are to have decreased sexual function and erectile performance. If that won't get men out of the guest bedroom they've been banished to and into the sleep lab so they can return to the marital bed (and not just to sleep), I don't know what will. High blood pressure, excessive daytime sleepiness, heart disease, increased risk of stroke and now sexual dysfunction: all the more reason to ask your doctor if getting a good night's sleep is right for you.
Dennis Rosen, M.D.
Learn how to help your child get a great night’s sleep with my ebook:
Successful Sleep Strategies for Kids (a Harvard Medical School Guide)