For Nonstandard Shift Workers, Sleep Quality Might Affect Hypogonadal Symptoms, Sexual Function

Men who work nonstandard shifts and have poor sleep quality may be more likely to have hypogonadal symptoms and sexual problems, according to new research.

These results may not be specifically related to testosterone or hypogonadism itself, the study authors noted, but rather symptoms that are classically associated with hypogonadism.

Shift workers typically work outside the traditional 7 am to 6 pm time frame, sometimes starting work before 7 am or after 2 pm. They might also have rotating schedules that regularly switch from traditional to nonstandard shifts. Past research suggests that shift work may be linked to health problems like reduced cognitive function, high blood pressure, and depression.

Men with hypogonadism have low testosterone levels accompanied by physical symptoms, such as low sex drive, erectile dysfunction (ED), decreased muscle mass, fatigue, moodiness, and trouble sleeping. Testosterone levels naturally decline as men get older, making these symptoms more prominent with age.

Research also suggests that testosterone levels fluctuate more for nonstandard shift workers when compared to standard shift workers. With this in mind, scientists set out to determine the relationship between sleep quality, hypogonadal symptoms, and sexual dysfunction in men who work nonstandard shifts.

They examined data from 691 men who were patients at an andrology clinic between July and October 2014. Four hundred ninety-four men worked standard shifts, and 182 had a nonstandard work schedule. The men completed online questionnaires about their sleep habits and hypogonadal symptoms. Sexual function was assessed with the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF). Serum hormone levels were also measured.

Men who worked nonstandard shifts were asked to rate their sleep quality, but those who worked standard shifts did not provide this information.

The scientists discovered that nonstandard shift workers who slept well had fewer hypogonadal symptoms and better sexual function. For example, those who said they were “very satisfied” and “somewhat satisfied” with their sleep quality had higher scores on the IIEF (indicating better sexual function) than those who rated their sleep quality as “very unsatisfactory.” (Since standard shift workers were not asked to rate their sleep quality, there was no information for this group.)

The researchers found no association between sleep quality and hormone levels in nonstandard shift workers.

In addition, hormone levels were similar for men on standard and nonstandard work schedules. However, the authors acknowledged that over 40% of the men in both groups were on testosterone therapy, a fact that might have affected the results.

They added that all of the men, no matter what shifts they worked, were patients at a urology clinic and that data from a comparison group of healthy men were not available.

“Nevertheless, this work does link sleep quality directly with hypogonadal symptoms and sexual dysfunction, and suggests that sleep quality may more potently affect these parameters than serum hormone levels,” the authors wrote.

The study was published online as an article in press in the journal Urology last December.

Resources

Urology

Pastuszak, Alexander W., et al.
“Poor Sleep Quality Predicts Hypogonadal Symptoms and Sexual Dysfunction in Male Nonstandard Shift Workers”
(Full-text. Published online: December 14, 2016)
http://www.goldjournal.net/article/S0090-4295(16)30906-2/fulltext