Viagra, Raynaud’s & Sleep Apnea

Viagra is still a popular drug that’s used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. It works by relaxing smooth muscle in blood vessels, allowing blood to enter the penis. A recent study showed that it can also help people with Raynaud’s phenomenon, where small blood vessels in the hands or feet go into spasm and cause cold or numb extremities, sometimes to the point of infection or even gangrene. This condition is commonly seen with autoimmune conditions, especially in lupus. It makes sense that relaxing smooth muscles that constrict blood vessels may increase circulation. Unfortunately, people taking this medication had a number of side effects.

In my book, Sleep, Interrupted, I describe a young woman who had classic Raynaud’s symptoms, needing to wear socks and mittens to bed even in the summer. After undergoing multilevel upper airway surgery for her mild obstructive sleep apnea, her Raynaud’s disappeared completely! Her depression, low blood pressure, irritable bowel symptoms, and daily headaches improved significantly as well.

There are also numerous studies showing the ED is a common complication of obstructive sleep apnea. One of the more common signs that sleep apnea treatment is working (through CPAP, dental devices or surgery) is that men are having erections again upon awakening in the morning. In many cases, ED resolves completely after sleep apnea treatment.

Not getting deep, high quality sleep is known to cause a physiologic state of stress, leading to too much of an adrenaline response. This results in an inability to relax vascular smooth muscles in various parts of the body, including the hands, as well as the digestive or reproductive organs.

If you have obstructive sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome, it’s a given that your body will be under a constant state of stress. This why why after properly treating these conditions, ED and Raynaud’s often improve. These common conditions are not problems specific to the respective body parts—they are the end result of a systemic problem aggravated by not breathing and not sleeping properly.

These sleep-breathing problems are often treated successfully by alternative and complementary practitioners, since they tend to focus on the whole person, including his or her surroundings, rather than the one specific neurotransmitter, hormone, or body part.

However, taking a pill, whether it’s a prescription medication, vitamin or natural herb, or breathing exercises during the day, won’t solve the problem completely if you’re not able to breathe properly at night.

How many of you have had partial or total resolution of your ED or Raynaud’s after treating your sleep-breathing condition?

 

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