Low Testosterone? Make Sure You Don't Also Have Sleep Apnea

We've all seen the commercials, the handsome middle-aged man taking his wife's hand and the next shot is of a slowly filling bathtub or, in the old days, a couple smoking side by side on the terrace with smiles on their faces.

But medications like Viagra and Cialis are on the air all the time, as are ads for testosterone.  Now, while most men don't really need this hormone, did you know that men with truly low levels may suffer from sleep apnea?  And that sleep apnea can kill?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that can happen to anyone but usually affects those who are overweight or obese. What happens is that, when you're sleeping, you stop breathing, as many as hundreds of times a night.  You don't know you're doing this because you're asleep, but it can hurt your heart, even over time cause heart attacks, and it can be a silent killer.


According to the the NIH's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.

Sleep apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep.
As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness. 

My husband, who is a sufferer, used to fall asleep driving home from his office in Queens to our home in Connecticut, and only fate has saved him a number of times from dying in his car.

Morning headaches, memory problems, waking up frequently to urinate, or dry mouth are all known symptoms of this disorder.

What happens if it goes untreated?  Diabetes. Stroke. Heart failure.  You can die from all or any  of these. 

The good news is that there are now devices out on the market that can help you keep your mouth open while you sleep and let more air in.  There's the well-known CPAP, a mask that fits over your face, and keeps your airway open through continuous positive airway pressure (hence the name), as well as mandibular advancing device, which moves the jaw to allow more air into the lungs.  You can order this one from your dentist.

So even if your testosterone levels are fine, but you have trouble sleeping, you might want to look into whether you have apnea (a sleep clinic can tell you, but there are now also kits you can buy to use at home).  As the commercial says, "Sleep. It's a beautiful thing." 

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