The short-term effects of high-dose testosterone on sleep, breathing, and function in older men

Peter Y. Liu, Brendon Yee, Susan M. Wishart, Mark Jimenez, Dae Gun Jung, Ronald R. Grunstein, David J. Handelsman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

215 Citations (Scopus)


Androgen therapy may precipitate obstructive sleep apnea in men. Despite increasing androgen use in older men, few studies have examined sleep and breathing. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies examining effects of testosterone simultaneously on sleep, breathing, and function in older men are not available. Seventeen community-dwelling healthy men over the age of 60 yr were randomized to receive three injections of im testosterone esters at weekly intervals (500 mg, 250 mg, and 250 mg) or matching oil-based placebo and then crossed over to the other treatment after 8 wk of washout. Polysomnography, anthropometry, and physical, mental, and metabolic function were assessed at baseline and after each treatment period. Testosterone treatment reduced total time slept (∼1 h), increased the duration of hypoxemia (∼5 min/night), and disrupted breathing during sleep (total and non-rapid eye movement respiratory disturbance indices both increased by approximately seven events per hour) (all P < 0.05). Despite expected effects on body composition (increase in total and lean mass, reduction in fat mass, P < 0.05, bioimpedance method), upper airway dimensions did not change (acoustic reflectometry). Driving ability (computer simulation), physical activity (accelerometry, Physical Activity Scale in the Elderly), quality of life (SF36, Functional Outcomes of Sleep Questionnaire), mood (Profile of Mood States Questionnaire), sleepiness (Epworth, Stanford scales), and insulin resistance (homeostasis model) also were not changed by treatment. Short-term administration of high-dose testosterone shortens sleep and worsens sleep apnea in older men but did not alter physical, mental, or metabolic function. These changes did not appear to be due to upper airway narrowing. Further study of longer-term lower-dose androgen therapy on sleep and breathing is needed to evaluate its safety in older men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3605-3613
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2003
Externally publishedYes


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