There are some well-known causes of erectile dysfunction (ED), such as drinking too much alcohol or having heart disease. However, sometimes there is no obvious cause, especially for men under the age of 50 who may otherwise appear to be in good health. Here are some less widely known reasons that may be causing men to have an unsatisfactory sex life.

Sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a condition that causes the walls of the throat to become narrower during sleep, which can interrupt breathing patterns and disturb sleep. The condition may also cause loud snoring, and the sufferer may wake up gasping for air or snorting. 

OSA can cause excessive tiredness during the daytime, mental fatigue and difficulty concentrating, headaches, and frequent urination. The condition is more common in men than in women, and some research suggests that half of all men who are diagnosed with it also have ED.

The reasons for this are not quite clear, but it may be linked to sleep apnoea causing lower levels of oxygen in the body, and also lower levels of testosterone, both of which are needed for optimal sexual functioning in men. The good news is that both conditions are treatable. Patients may be advised to lose weight and cut back on alcohol consumption.

Porn addiction

Men who overuse porn may find it more difficult to achieve an erection during a real-world sexual encounter. Porn addiction isn’t an official medical condition, but it is classified as a compulsive sexual behaviour disorder by the World Health Organisation (WHO). There is no fixed dividing line when a regular habit crosses over into an addiction.

However, experts agree that if an individual becomes too dependent on porn for sexual stimulation, the intensity of the pleasurable rewards becomes fainter over time. This leads to greater cravings for more extreme porn, and eventually, it may become difficult or impossible to achieve a healthy erection. 

Addiction can be a complicated problem with emotional roots, and an individual may require professional help to overcome the habit. 


Cycling is an excellent way to keep fit and manage weight, which is an important part of maintaining healthy sexual function, especially in later life. However, keen cyclists may be more prone to ED, because the bicycle seat can compress the blood vessels in the genital area, making it more difficult to get an erection.

Therefore, men who spend long hours on their bikes are advised to use a soft gel or padded seat, and opt for a broader seat. It is also helpful to stand up on the pedals for some of the time to reduce friction. 

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