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How to Treat Erectile Dysfunction Naturally: 12 Methods

You may be able to cure erectile dysfunction by keeping your sleep debt low, syncing up with your circadian rhythm, treating sleep apnea, and losing weight.
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
Our Editorial Standards
We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists. Learn more.
Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.
Published
2022-12-14
Updated
15 MINS
Man speaking to therapist to treat erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) may feel like an embarrassing condition, but it’s potentially much more than that. Not only can it be a sign of a serious health issue like heart disease, it can easily affect your love life, self-esteem, and sleep — as the stress and anxiety over it keep you up. And when sleep is affected, almost everything else — your energy, your mood, your mental and physical health — takes a hit. 

ED that happens every now and again isn’t usually cause for concern. But when it’s a constant problem or something that’s disrupting your life, it’s worth getting to the bottom of. That, however, is easier said than done. 

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by a range of physical and mental problems, and it often has a mixture of different causes. And while supplements and prescription medications do exist, they don’t treat the root cause of the problem and often come with side effects. Luckily, there are science-back natural treatments for the sexual disorder.

Below, we’ll dive into how to treat erectile dysfunction naturally with a special focus on sleep — a little-known cause and underrated treatment for ED. Plus, we’ll show you how the RISE app can help with many ED treatments. 

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is the most common sexual disorder in men, affecting about one-third of the male population. 

It’s defined as:

  • Trouble getting an erection 
  • Trouble keeping an erection 
  • Reduced libido, or sexual desire 

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by limited blood flow to the penis, but this problem itself can be caused by many factors, including physical or physiological problems. It can be difficult to tell what the root cause of the sexual disorder is, and often it’s a mixture of both physical and physiological factors. 

Causes of ED include: 

  • Aging 
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney disease, vascular disease, and heart disease
  • Medications like antidepressants 
  • Mental health issues like stress, anxiety, and depression 
  • Relationship problems 
  • Sleep deprivation 
  • Sleep disorders like sleep apnea 

Seeking medical advice for sexual dysfunction is never easy. But you shouldn’t suffer in silence when it comes to erectile dysfunction. As much as it impacts your sexual health and relationship, it could also be a sign of an underlying condition that needs urgent treatment like cardiovascular disease. Speak to a healthcare professional if it’s an ongoing problem. 

Plus, the stress and anxiety ED causes can easily start affecting your health, relationship, and sleep — all of which can make ED worse and can lead to further health consequences. 

How to Treat Erectile Dysfunction Naturally?

Erectile dysfunction treatments range from prescription ED medications like sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis) to over-the-counter dietary supplements to herbal remedies like ginkgo, red ginseng, and the aptly named horny goat weed. But these options often don’t treat the underlying cause of poor erectile function.

Plus, prescription medication can come with side effects and over-the-counter supplements aren’t well-researched in clinical trials regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Luckily, there are natural treatment options that have been scientifically proven to help, and depending on what’s causing your erectile dysfunction and how severe it is, you may only need to make some simple lifestyle changes to see an improvement in your sex life. 

Try these natural cures for erectile dysfunction: 

1. Exercise

Regular exercise improves blood vessel health, lowers stress, helps you lose weight, and helps you fall asleep — all of which can help with erectile dysfunction. 

Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise can help with ED, but moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise has been shown to be the most effective. But even walking has been shown to improve erectile dysfunction.   

Vigorous exercise may be great for ED, but doing it too close to bedtime can keep you up. Check the RISE app for when you should avoid intense workouts. 

​​RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their avoid late workouts reminder.

2. Pelvic Floor Exercises 

One study asked men with erectile dysfunction to either make lifestyle changes only or do pelvic floor exercises as well as make lifestyle changes. Both groups saw an improvement in their ED after three months, but the group who did pelvic floor exercises saw the most improvement. After six months, 40% of the pelvic floor group had cured their erectile dysfunction, and 35.5% had improved it. 

3. Therapy

Talking to a professional can help if you’re suffering from stress, anxiety, or depression. A sex therapist may be able to help with problems like performance anxiety. 

Speaking to a professional with your partner can help you work through trust issues or arguments you have that have led to relationship problems. 

4. Reduce Stress

Stress can not only be a cause of erection problems, it can keep you up at night, which can also cause the sexual disorder or other factors that put you at risk like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. 

You can work on lowering your stress levels through meditation, yoga, and spending time in nature. There are even small studies suggesting acupuncture can help some people with ED. 

Cutting down on your workload, asking for help with childcare or caretaking duties, and speaking with a therapist may also be necessary to reduce stress long term. 

5. Cut Down on Alcohol 

Men who drink three or more alcoholic drinks a week are more likely to have erectile dysfunction. This is true even when age and smoking are taken into account. 

Drinking too much alcohol also feeds into several erectile dysfunction risk factors, like obesity, sleep loss, and diabetes. 

Avoid alcohol close to bed as it can fragment your sleep, meaning you wake up during the night. 

Check RISE for when you should have your final drink each day. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their avoid late alcohol reminder.

6. Quit Smoking

Research suggests smoking may double your risk of developing erectile dysfunction. 

But the good news is the prevalence of erectile dysfunction in former smokers is the same as in those who have never smoked, so the damage may be reversible. 

7. Eat a Healthy Diet 

Research from 2020 found eating a healthy or Mediterranean diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and fish — and avoiding red meat and processed meat — was linked to a lowered risk of developing erectile dysfunction. 

Plus, eating this diet comes with the added health benefit of maintaining a healthy weight, which can also keep ED risk down. 

8. Lose Weight

Carrying excess weight, especially excess belly fat, can increase your odds of developing ED. But losing weight has been shown to improve erectile function. 

Eat in a calorie deficit, get plenty of exercise, and focus on getting enough sleep to aid weight loss. 

You can learn more about the best way to lose weight and what time you should stop eating to lose weight here. 

Let’s dive into the sleep-based treatments in more detail.

Can Sleep Cure Erectile Dysfunction?

Sleep and erectile dysfunction are closely linked. Sleep plays a huge role in your hormone production and blood flow — two things that are essential for an erection. 

Poor sleep can also be the reason for low testosterone levels. Sleeping five hours a night for eight nights reduces your testosterone by 10% to 15%, and even just one night of 4.5 hours can reduce morning testosterone levels. 

You can learn more about testosterone and sleep here.   

But the link between sleep and erectile dysfunction goes beyond just hormones and blood flow. Not getting enough sleep spikes your stress levels, makes you less likely to work out, causes weight gain, leaves you feeling exhausted, and makes you more tense with your partner — all of which can contribute to erectile dysfunction. 

And to make matters worse, not getting enough sleep puts you at higher risk for health problems like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and these conditions increase your odds of erectile dysfunction, too. 

And to top it off, stress and anxiety about erectile dysfunction can easily keep you up at night, creating a vicious circle.   

Need proof? A 2022 study looking at the link between erectile dysfunction and sleep found that poor sleep quality was a risk factor for the sexual disorder (although experts don’t have an agreed-upon definition for sleep quality yet).

The results also showed that those with erectile dysfunction had significantly lower: 

Beyond erectile dysfunction, sleep can impact your sex life in other ways, too. Sleep deprivation and sleep disorders can cause low libido in both men and women, and even cause relationship problems. One study found when both partners slept less, they were more hostile toward each other.

There is some good news, though. Many of the natural remedies for erectile dysfunction can also improve your sleep. For example, working out, reducing stress, cutting down on alcohol, quitting smoking, and losing weight have all been shown to boost your sleep and help with ED, meaning these lifestyle changes are a win-win. 

You can learn more about how to increase sex drive through sleep here.

Let’s dive into how you can cure erectile dysfunction in the most natural way possible — by getting better sleep. 

Can Sleep Cure Erectile Dysfunction?

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can tell you how much sleep debt you have.

Sleep debt is the amount of sleep you owe your body. It’s measured against your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need. On the RISE app, we measure sleep debt over your last 14 nights. 

So, if your sleep need is 8 hours 30 minutes, but you’ve only been getting six to seven hours of sleep a night recently, you’ll have built up a lot of sleep debt. 

The RISE app can work out your individual sleep need down to the minute and work out how much sleep debt you’re carrying. We recommend keeping this below five hours to feel and perform your best, both in and out of the bedroom. 

If you find you’ve got high sleep debt, you can pay it down by: 

  • Taking naps: Check RISE for the best time to do this. 
  • Going to bed a little earlier. 
  • Sleeping in a little later: Keep this to an hour or two to avoid messing up your circadian rhythm (more on that soon). 
  • Improving your sleep hygiene: Focus on sleep hygiene habits that can cut down the time it takes you to fall asleep and reduce how often you wake up during the night, meaning you get more sleep overall. More on what to do soon. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.

Get in Sync With Your Circadian Rhythm

RISE app screenshot showing your melatonin window which can tell you the best time to go to sleep
The RISE app can tell you the best time to go to sleep each night.

Your circadian rhythm is your body’s roughly 24-hour biological clock that dictates things like your sleep-wake cycle, your energy levels throughout the day, and your hormone production.  

When you’re out of sync with your circadian rhythm — perhaps from an irregular sleep schedule, jet lag, or shift work — you might struggle to fall asleep and wake up at your desired bedtime and wake time, and suffer from low energy throughout the day. 

Living out of sync can cause high sleep debt, weight gain, and health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression — all of which are linked to ED. And circadian misalignment had been linked directly to erectile dysfunction. 

As one study puts it: “Convincing evidence shows that a disturbed circadian clock due to shift work, irregular sleep-wake cycle, or inappropriate modern lifestyle impairs human health and contributes to various diseases, including ED.”

More research needs to be done, but the good news is, fixing circadian issues may help to treat erectile dysfunction. 

Here’s how to live in sync with your circadian rhythm: 

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule: Find a sleep schedule that works for you and stick to it, even on weekends. 
  • Eat meals at roughly the same times and during the day: Eating can change the timing of your circadian rhythm, and eating too close to bedtime can keep you up. 
  • Go to bed during your Melatonin Window: This is what we call the roughly one-hour window of time when your body’s rate of melatonin production is at its highest. As melatonin primes your body for sleep, going to bed during this window can help you fall and stay asleep.

The RISE app predicts your circadian rhythm each day based on factors like your inferred light exposure and last night’s sleep times. You can then see when your body naturally wants to wake up, wind down for bed, and go to sleep, and sync up your daily life to it. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to see their circadian rhythm on the Energy screen.

Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

RISE app screenshot showing when to get and avoid bright light
The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits.

Sleep hygiene is the set of habits you can do each day to help you fall asleep faster, wake up less often during the night, and stay in sync with your circadian rhythm. 

Many sleep hygiene habits are also natural erectile dysfunction cures — like working out and limiting alcohol. 

Another bonus? Improving your sleep hygiene can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, meaning you don’t have to turn to sleep aids like benzodiazepines — which have been linked to erectile dysfunction

Here’s what to do: 

  • Get light first thing and avoid it before bed: Get at least 10 minutes of bright light as soon as possible after waking up to reset your circadian rhythm for the day. And dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses 90 minutes before bed to stop bright light from keeping you up.
  • Avoid alcohol, vigorous exercise, large meals, and caffeine too close to bedtime: These common sleep disruptors can keep or wake you up. 
  • Do a relaxing bedtime routine: Reduce stress and anxiety and wind down for bed by doing calming activities in the run-up to bedtime. Try reading, listening to music, journaling, or doing yoga. 

Stay on top of your sleep hygiene with RISE. The app can remind you to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day and tell you the best time to do them based on your circadian rhythm each day to make them more effective 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications. 

Get Tested for and Treat Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea causes you to temporarily stop breathing during the night. This leads to sleep loss, lowered testosterone levels, and lowered oxygen levels — all of which may contribute to erectile dysfunction. 

Plus, the sleep disorder can lead to weight gain, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease — and all of these health conditions can increase your risk of developing erectile dysfunction, too. 

And that’s not to mention the fact that snoring, gasping for breath, and waking up during the night can easily impact your partner’s sleep — breeding resentment and fatigue, not exactly a recipe for a great sex life, erectile dysfunction aside.

Sleep apnea may be the sleep disorder most associated with an increased risk of erectile dysfunction, and research shows the more severe your sleep apnea is, the more severe your erectile dysfunction. 

Treating the sleep disorder can not only improve your overall health and quality of life, but it can help your sex life, too. 

A common sleep apnea treatment involves sleeping with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which pushes air into your airways, keeping them open at night. This treatment has been shown to improve erectile dysfunction in those with the sleep disorder.

It may not take long to see results, either. Research suggests one month of CPAP therapy may help up to 75% of patients with erectile dysfunction.

You can learn more about how to know if you have sleep apnea here and how to get rid of sleep apnea here. Can you take testosterone if you have sleep apnea? We summarize the science here.

Improve Your Sleep, Improve Your Sex Life 

There are many natural cures for erectile dysfunction, including exercise, lowering stress, and pelvic floor exercises, but one under-appreciated treatment is sleep. 

High sleep debt and being out of sync with your circadian rhythm can cause erectile dysfunction, and lead to many other problems — weight gain, stress, fatigue, relationship problems — which can tank your sex life further.

Sleep has a huge impact on sexual function, and it’s something we can work on improving. You can use the RISE app to keep track of your sleep debt and sync up with your circadian rhythm. RISE can also guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits to make this easy.

You should start sleeping more soundly and performing better — both in and out of the bedroom. 

Summary FAQs

What is the main cause of erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction can have many causes including sleep deprivation, sleep disorders, obesity, smoking, alcohol, relationship problems, medication, stress, anxiety, depression, and health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Can a lack of sleep cause erectile dysfunction?

Yes, a lack of sleep can cause erectile dysfunction. Less sleep time, taking longer to fall asleep, and getting less deep sleep and REM sleep have been linked to erectile dysfunction. Lack of sleep can also cause problems that put you at more risk of developing erectile dysfunction like relationship problems, stress, and heart disease.

Erectile dysfunction and sleep apnea

Erectile dysfunction and sleep apnea are linked. Sleep apnea can cause sleep deprivation, lowered testosterone, and lowered oxygen levels, which can contribute to erectile dysfunction. Treating sleep apnea with CPAP therapy has been shown to improve erectile dysfunction.

How do you fix erectile dysfunction?

You can fix erectile dysfunction by keeping your sleep debt low, living in sync with your circadian rhythm, treating sleep apnea, exercising, doing pelvic floor exercises, losing weight, cutting down on alcohol, quitting smoking, and reducing stress.

How can I solve erectile dysfunction naturally?

You can solve erectile dysfunction naturally by keeping your sleep debt low, living in sync with your circadian rhythm, treating sleep apnea, exercising, doing pelvic floor exercises, losing weight, cutting down on alcohol, quitting smoking, and reducing stress.

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