I just came across this article showing that treating nasal polyps with sinus surgery can help men with erectile disfunction (ED). My initial reaction was that any type of nasal surgery can help with sleep-breathing problems, whether or not it’s obstructive sleep apnea.
The authors studied 35 patients who were confirmed to have nasal polyps. They excluded anyone with any known risk factors for ED, such as obstructive sleep apnea, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, or any neurologic conditions. All the subjects underwent a validated questionnaire for ED, as well as nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) testing. Before surgery, 34.5% of these patients had ED based on the validated questionnaires, compared to 3.3% in controls. After surgery, the percent of people with ED dropped to 10.3%. NPT testing improved significantly as well.
Despite the fact the they excluded everyone with obstructive sleep apnea, it’s likely that having nasal congestion potentially aggravated sleep-breathing problems, leading to increased adrenaline levels. Having a stuffy nose causes a vacuum effect downstream in the throat, which allows the tongue to fall back more easily, causing obstructions and arousals. These breathing pauses may not be called apneas, but they can cause deep sleep disruption, leading to inefficient sleep and increased states of physiologic stress. Any type of stress, whether it’s physiologic, emotional, or psychological stress, can aggravate ED by the following mechanism:
Arousal and erection in men is mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation response). Orgasm is activated by the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response). If there’s too much sympathetic activation, you’re not going to have enough relaxation of the smooth muscle that allows blood to fill up the penis. Relaxing this muscle can be accomplished using medications, relaxation techniques, herbs or supplements.
Add one more option to this list: Better sleep by better breathing.