Chronic intermittent hypoxia induces hormonal and male sexual behavioral changes: Hypoxia as an advancer of aging

E. Nicole Wilson, Marc Anderson, Brina Snyder, Phong Duong, Jenny Trieu, Derek A. Schreihofer, Rebecca L. Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by intermittent periods of low blood oxygen levels. The risk for sleep apnea increases with age and is more prevalent in men than women. A common comorbidity of sleep apnea includes male sexual dysfunction, but it is not clear if a causal relationship exists between sleep apnea and sexual dysfunction. Possible mechanisms that link these two disorders include oxidative stress and testosterone. Oxidative stress is elevated in clinical patients with sleep apnea and in rodents exposed to chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH), an animal model for apnea-induced hypopnea. Further, oxidative stress levels increase with age. Therefore, age may play a role in sleep apnea-induced sexual dysfunction and oxidative stress generation. To investigate this relationship, we exposed gonadally intact 3 (young) and 12 (middle-aged) month old male F344/BN F1 hybrid male rats to 8 days of CIH, and then examined male sexual function. Plasma was used to assess circulating oxidative stress and hormone levels. Middle-aged male rats had lower testosterone levels with increased sexual dysfunction and oxidative stress, independent of CIH. However, CIH decreased testosterone levels and increased sexual dysfunction and oxidative stress only in young gonadally intact male rats, but not in gonadectomized young rats with physiological testosterone replacement. In sum, CIH had a greater impact on younger gonadally intact animals, with respect to sexual behaviors, testosterone, and oxidative stress. Our data indicate CIH mimics the effects of aging on male sexual behavior in young gonadally intact male rats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-73
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - 15 May 2018



  • Corticosterone
  • Male sex behavior
  • Oxidative stress
  • Sex dysfunction
  • Testosterone

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