By Dr. Michael Layton (DDS)
Is there a link between sleep apnea and low testosterone levels in men? Health.com recently posted the connection between the two in their 13 Surprising Facts About Testosterone. How valid is this? Let’s examine the facts and nothing but the facts to determine the implications of sleep apnea on testosterone.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Lawrence Epstein, M.D. of Harvard Medical School and the editor of Harvard Health Publications special health report defines sleep apnea as “a collapse of the upper airway during sleep that is due to the size of the airway and the changes that happen when you fall asleep. The airway is a flexible tube where air passes through the mouth or nose. When you fall asleep the tissue surrounding the breathing tube narrows a little bit. When it closes halfway thats when you start to get an obstruction to airflow which causes very turbulent airflow, resulting in the tissues to vibrate and thats snoring. When the airway completely closes off thats apnea.”
The closing off the airway triggers the brain of the individual to wake up, sleep apnea sufferers can have their sleep interrupted from 25 to 50 times per hour. Sleep apnea is chronic condition affecting 858,900 Canadians who are 18 years and older. Statistics for people who suffer from this sleep disorder reported being diagnosed with the more serious obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This more severe form affects 26 percent of Canadians or 1 in four adults. These statistics can be found at the Public Health Agency of Canada from the 2009 Canadian Community Health Survey provisioned through Stats Canada.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Symptoms are as follows:
● interruption of sleep
● shortness of breath
● loud snoring
● waking up with a dry or sore throat
● constant reawakening
● decreased interest in sex
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs commonly in people who suffer from obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, if left untreated it will only exacerbate these preconditions. Extreme fatigue that results from waking up multiple times in a night leads to depression, driving accidents and workplace hazards. When your mother told you to go to bed early when you were a child she may have known a thing or 2 unbeknownst to her about natural health. A good night’s sleep can not be underestimated for your overall health.
What Is Testosterone?
Testosterone is produced in the testes it is the secondary sex characteristic responsible for the reproductive development of the male gender. This male sex hormone is commonly associated with sexual desire and the production of sperm. The three main types of testosterone classification are as follows:
1. Free Testosterone. Total testosterone the purest form found in the human body with no proteins attached to it. This testosterone makes up 2 to 3 percent of total testosterone levels in the human body. Free testosterone is really important for bodybuilders and athletes in sports.
2. SHBG-bound Testosterone. SHBG is bound with the sex hormone globulin. It can not be used to build muscles or change a persons mood. SHBG makes up 40 to 50 percent of our total testosterone levels.
3. Albumin bound Testosterone. Albumin is a protein found in the liver that helps stabilize extracellular fluid in the body. Just like SHBG Albumin is biologically inactive.
Testosterone governs the following factors:
● Skin-Hair growth, balding, sebum production
● Brain-Libido, mood
● Liver-Synthesis of serum proteins
● Male Sexual Growth-penile growth, spermatogenesis, prostate growth and function
● Muscle development-increase in strength and size
● Kidney-stimulation of erythropoietin production
● Bone marrow- stimulation of stem cells
● Bone-accelerated linear growth
Testosterone affects your level of focus, bone density and last but not least the size of your muscles. Most people associate testosterone with bodybuilders and aggression in athletes especially football players, boxers and MMA fighters. Most of the testosterone in the human body gets bound by the sex hormone binding agent globulin that grabs the testerone preventing its over release, there is another protein amylin also grabs the testerone for when its slowly needed as required. The globulin protein increases as men age leading to decreased levels of testosterone.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
● erectile disfunction
● lack of sex drive
● lack of focus and ambition
● decreased muscle mass
● bone density decrease
● abnormal male breast tissue
● low sperm count
● loss of body hair
● mild anemia
● decreased energy and depression
Low levels of testosterone in men can lead to an increased risk of chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension or even death in some cases.
Linking Sleep Apnea and Low Testosterone
Any physician out there will acknowledge there is a direct link between aging and a decrease in testosterone levels and higher incidences of sleep apnea. Testosterone deficiency or hypogonadism is prevalent among obese people. If noticed during this article there are many common symptoms related to men who have low levels of testosterone and people who have sleep apnea. All evidence points to a definite correlation for men who have sleep apnea and decreased levels of the male hormone testosterone.
Medical doctors recommend getting blood work done if your energy levels are low or getting a polysomnogram for possible sleep apnea. Low levels of testosterone are linked to low levels of insulin production making people susceptible to Type II Diabetes. Obesity is a common denominator in people who have diabetes. Individuals who are diabetic are at an increased risk for sleep apnea. Medical studies have drawn too many parallels between sleep apnea and low testosterone levels in men for this issue to be ignored.
If you are a male who is experiencing any of the symptoms outlined you many want to consult with your physician on your next checkup.
- Dr. Michael Layton (DDS) is a South Surrey Dentist, based in British Columbia. He has been in the dental industry for the last decade and received his Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Washington. He takes pride in providing a positive and caring dental solutions for people of every walk of life. You can follow him on Google+.