Problems in the bedroom can be awkward to discuss. Specifically, erectile dysfunction (ED) is one conversation most men would rather not have. However, if you suffer from ED, you can take comfort in knowing that ED is a widespread and treatable condition that affects one-third of men. You may think the cause of your ED is directly related to your, ahem, equipment, but your inability to perform could be caused by several seemingly unrelated factors. Anxiety, stress, mental health, blood pressure, and even the way you breathe can all affect your sex life, says the Mayo Clinic. Instead of popping a pill to get an erection, read on to find out how your breathing could be causing your bedroom woes, and what you can do about it.
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The way you breathe impacts your blood flow.
Your circulatory and respiratory systems work together to circulate blood and oxygen throughout your body. As you breathe, air and blood flow in and out of your lungs, and a 2017 study published in Breathe found that deep breathing can increase blood flow, improve digestion, and help release toxins.
Since breathing can impact blood flow, it makes sense that how you breathe is related to ED. Paul Thompson, MD, a urologist and surgeon at the Thompson Clinic in Fort Worth, TX, tells Best Life, "There are several ways breathing can be a factor in ED. Poor breathing can affect circulation, leading to ED. Another issue is sleep apnea. Poor breathing while sleeping can lead to ED."
Breathing this way can lead to challenges in the bedroom.
Breathing through your mouth could be the culprit behind your ED, experts say. A study published in the Journal of Oral Health and Dental Science examined the relationship between mouth breathing and sexual dysfunction; researchers observed that 68 percent of mouth-breathing patients had sexual difficulties such as ED, premature ejaculation, and low libido. Furthermore, these findings were shared among all participants ranging in age from 20 to 56, which indicates a positive correlation between mouth breathing and ED.
"Certain types of breathing, such as mouth breathing, increase the risk of sleep disorders," says Justin Houman, MD, medical director at Bastion Health. "When sleep is interrupted for long periods, this can lower testosterone levels and increase the risk of erectile dysfunction."
Avoid breathing through your mouth whenever possible.
Not only does mouth breathing increase your risk of ED, the Cleveland Clinic reports that it can be hazardous for your health. When you breathe through your mouth, you're inhaling more than just air: You're bringing bacteria, toxins, and other harmful particles into your body. This can exacerbate your sex troubles by constricting your airways, making you more likely to experience ED.
Unfortunately, those who breathe through their mouths usually do so subconsciously. The good news is, there are tricks you can use to prevent mouth breathing. "Practice breathing in and out through your nose throughout the day," Houman advises. "Also, make sure your nose is clean and not stuffy. Finally, use a larger pillow to prop your head up when you sleep." In addition, a 2020 study published in Rethinking Rhinoplasty and Facial Surgery looked at the efficacy of using mouth tape to boost your sexual function.
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Breathe through your nose for better sex.
You may be surprised to learn that your nose plays a crucial role in your sexual health. That's because your body produces nitric oxide (NO)—a gas that helps dilate and constrict your blood vessels—when you breathe through your nose. NO benefits your circulatory system by widening your blood vessels and airways, which improves blood pressure, boosts heart health, and improves circulation. Plus, nasal breathing is better for your health because nose hairs help filter bacteria and other harmful participles from entering your body.
If you're a mouth breather and want to ensure your sex life stays rock solid, practice nasal breathing throughout the day and use mouth tape at night to help train your body to breathe through your nose when you're asleep. "Nasal breathing helps you relax more than mouth breathing," says Houman. "As a result, ED associated with anxiety can better be addressed with nasal breathing."