Sleep Apnea 101

How Does Low Testosterone Affect Sleep Apnea?

While having sleep apnea does not inherently mean that someone has low testosterone levels, the two conditions can be connected. Our hormones can impact all areas of our health but, in particular, can affect breathing quality during sleep. If you have ongoing sleep troubles, it may be worth evaluating with a health professional the influence of your hormone health before undergoing any other major treatments.

The Influence of Low Testosterone on Sleep Apnea

Low testosterone can hinder your quality of sleep because it can affect oxygen distribution, among other things. Here are several ways in which low testosterone can have an impact on sleep apnea:

  • REM Sleep: REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, is a critical deep sleep process responsible for all areas of our health. Disruption in quality REM sleep can lower testosterone and increase sleep apnea disruptions during the night.
  • Oxygen Saturation: Lack of proper oxygen saturation can influence the body’s production of testosterone. Sleep apnea can also lead to altered oxygen levels in the blood during the night, influencing healthy hormone levels.
  • Nighttime Awakenings: With sleep apnea, patients have reported sudden awakenings during the night gasping for air. Since low testosterone can affect sleep quality, patients with both conditions have reported waking during the night which affects their energy and hormones during the day.
  • Sleep Fragmentation: Similar to awakenings during the night, sleep fragmentation means there are several interruptions during a single night’s sleep. This fragmentation can cause daytime sleepiness and healthy hormonal energy production.
  • Quality of Sleep: Good sleep requires minimal interruptions and quality breathing. Adequate oxygen levels keep us asleep and help the body restore and balance hormone functioning.
  • Decreased Energy: Low testosterone can lead to low energy. Since testosterone peaks in the early morning, if a patient reports feeling fatigued every morning it could signal a correlation between low testosterone and sleep apnea.

Often, if a patient is affected by sleep apnea or low testosterone, lifestyle modifications that improve sleep quality may improve both conditions. Managing or treating one condition can have an effect on the other.

What Is Low Testosterone?

Low testosterone is defined as male hypogonadism and indicates there is less than 300 nanograms of testosterone present. Sometimes the cause of low testosterone is genetic, and other times it is due to lifestyle and environmental irritants such as poor eating habits or low air quality.

What Are the Symptoms of Low Testosterone?

Common symptoms include:

  • Increased body fat
  • Depression
  • Errectile dysfunction
  • Low sex drive
  • Decreased energy
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Mood changes
  • Low muscle mass
  • Dry skin
  • Concentration problems
  • Low bone density

How Is Sleep Apnea With Low Testosterone Treated?

Before you can treat sleep apnea, you’ll need to understand the root cause first. While an oral appliance and other treatments can reduce symptoms and improve breathing quality, sometimes those will not fully rid someone of sleep troubles. If low testosterone is causing poor sleep, you will need to work with a health professional to determine lifestyle or other factors that may be affecting your hormones.

Oral Appliance Therapy

An oral appliance is a less intrusive, quieter alternative to a CPAP machine. Instead of having to hook up to a loud machine and sleep with a face mask on, an oral appliance just sits comfortably within the mouth and prevents the tongue from falling back into the throat and blocking the airways.

Weight Management

Sometimes, obesity or excess weight can influence both sleep apnea symptoms and contribute to low testosterone. To control weight, patients could benefit from improving their at-home lifestyle or working with a professional to find adequate treatment for weight loss.

Diet and Exercise

Having optimal nutrition can keep hormones in balance. Implementing a routine of regular fruits and vegetables can help keep hormones stable. Exercise may also improve sleep apnea symptoms related to low testosterone by improving circulation and oxygen saturation. The better the circulation, the less likely there will be blockages in the airways at night.

Decreasing Stress and Improving Sleep

Sleep problems and stress can go hand in hand. Unfortunately, lack of proper sleep can decrease testosterone, and too little testosterone can make it difficult to sleep. This creates an ongoing cycle of increased stress and fatigue in the body. To decrease stress, try finding a way to minimize environmental triggers in the environment. Over time, if at-home remedies are unsuccessful, reach out to your medical provider or a sleep specialist for individual testing and diagnosis.

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