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The Silent Enemy: Poor Sleep’s Impact on Men’s Health

May 30, 2024 06:45AM ● By Ingo Mahn, DDS
A man looking at his phone in bed.


In the hustle and bustle of modern life, sleep often takes a backseat. Yet, its importance cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to men’s health. Beyond feeling groggy and irritable, poor sleep can have profound effects on various bodily functions, including those intimately linked to men’s well-being, such as unwanted weight gain, high blood pressure and erectile function.
Nitric oxide (NO) plays a crucial role in men’s health, particularly concerning cardiovascular and sexual health. It acts as a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes blood vessels, promoting healthy blood flow. The dilation of the capillaries (our smallest blood vessels) means blood can get to the proper tissues. Just as importantly, NO also facilitates the release of oxygen from the red blood cells into our cells.
In the context of sexual health, NO is essential for achieving and maintaining erections. Research has shown that inadequate NO production is a contributing factor to erectile dysfunction, a common condition affecting men worldwide. It is in fact, nature’s Viagra.
One significant factor influencing NO levels is sleep quality. Several studies have demonstrated a clear link between poor sleep and reduced NO production. During sleep, especially during the rapid eye movement stage, the body undergoes various processes crucial for overall health, including NO synthesis. Disrupting this process with inadequate or fragmented sleep can lead to diminished NO levels.
A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that men with obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by breathing interruptions during sleep, exhibited significantly lower levels of NO compared to healthy individuals.
But how exactly does poor sleep sabotage NO levels? One mechanism involves the dysregulation of sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system activity. Sleep deprivation or fragmentation can lead to increased sympathetic nervous system activity, which, in turn, inhibits NO synthesis. If you snore, things are even worse, since proper nasal breathing also contributes to healthy NO levels.
Addressing poor sleep habits is essential for safeguarding men’s health. Implementing lifestyle changes to promote better sleep hygiene can yield tangible benefits. These may include establishing a consistent sleep schedule, creating a conducive sleep environment, and minimizing exposure to sleep-disrupting stimuli such as electronic devices before bedtime.
While continuous positive airway pressure therapy is considered the gold standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, it is generally only recommended once the problem gets severe.  Fortunately, easily tolerated oral appliance therapies are now available that can treat the actual root cause of breathing and sleeping problems.
The relationship between poor sleep and NO levels underscores the interconnectedness of sleep and men’s health. Prioritizing adequate, restorative sleep is not merely a matter of feeling refreshed; it is critical in maintaining optimal health. By recognizing the importance of sleep and taking proactive steps to improve sleep quality, men can empower themselves to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.

Dr. Ingo Mahn is a 1985 graduate of Marquette University School of Dentistry. He is an accredited member of the IAOMT (International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology) and earned a doctorate in integrative medicine from Capital University, in Georgetown. He is the founder of Natural Dental Partners (602-775-5120), a health-centered dental practice in North Scottsdale. Visit or for more information.