Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in males and one of the most important androgens in humans, playing a crucial role in promoting physical and mental health, especially in men.
Some of the well-known functions of testosterone include increased lean muscle mass and bone density, improved strength and stamina, and high libido. Healthy levels of testosterone also support energy metabolism, brain function and positive wellbeing.
Conversely low levels of testosterone are a risk factor for a number of health conditions including heart disease, obesity and osteoporosis. Symptoms of testosterone deficiency include depression, irritability, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, increased body fat, muscle loss, fatigue and weakness.
Given the fundamental role the hormone plays in our health and the many physiological functions it supports, is reason why we should pay particular attention to it. As such, while it is important we examine our many lifestyle choices and habits, it is imperative we look at the crucial role that sleep plays in influencing testosterone levels.
Why sleep is important to testosterone production
We spend about one third of our lives asleep. For good reason, there are many physical and psychological health benefits to getting plenty of shuteye – besides helping us to feel refreshed and energised for the day ahead.
On the other hand, impaired sleep and sleep loss can have adverse health consequences and include symptoms of depression, anxiety, weight gain and low libido.
One of the key health benefits of sleep, especially for men, is testosterone production. While lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise can influence testosterone concentrations, sleep is considered by some to be the most important. For men, it is during sleep when levels of testosterone are at their highest.
That sleep is crucial for secreting healthy concentrations of testosterone is borne out in scientific research. A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed testosterone levels in healthy young men decreased by 10 to 15 percent after one week sleep restriction to five hours each night.
A previous study in 2010 likewise showed strong associations between sleep duration and testosterone levels. The researchers found that among the 531 healthy Asian men who participated in the study, those who slept less than four hours had testosterone concentrations over 35 per cent lower than the men who routinely slept more than eight hours duration; and the men who slept between four and six hours had over 14 percent lower testosterone levels.
Similar results have been seen in older men too. A 2007 study showed the amount of night time sleep among healthy men aged 64 to 74 years old was significantly associated with measurements of their morning testosterone levels.
The research is clear: For younger and older men alike, getting enough sleep is crucial for producing healthy amounts of testosterone.
So how much is enough sleep?
Experts recommend adults aim for between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for good health. For healthy testosterone production, generally eight hours of sleep each night is enough while sleep durations of less than six hours shows significantly lower levels.
But the duration of sleep isn’t the only thing that counts. Your quality of sleep is equally, if not even more so important than how long you sleep. This is because broken and fragmented sleep can seriously interrupt the most important sleep stages we need for healthy bodies and testosterone production.
For example, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is one of the most important stages of sleep for its restorative qualities. REM is thought to play a critical role in memory consolidation to aid learning and performance and research has shown it’s during REM sleep states that we produce most of our testosterone.
Again research has shown significant associations between REM sleep and testosterone production. A study from 2001 published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reported that among 10 healthy men assigned to a fragmented sleep group, only those who achieved REM sleep showed a rise in testosterone. Those who didn’t achieve REM sleep during the study showed no rise in their testosterone levels.
Other health benefits of getting enough sleep
A quality night’s sleep yields many wide-ranging health benefits: Improved memory, judgement, performance and creativity to mention a few. Generally, when you get enough sleep your stress levels, concentration, mood and wellbeing will be a lot better through the day.
Sleep also has an important function in balancing hormones. For example, getting enough sleep helps increase testosterone and human growth hormone while lowering cortisol – commonly known as the stress hormone. As men, an optimal balance of these three hormones is especially important to our health – particularly if we look for improved performance and recovery, be that in the gym, on the playing field or even in the classroom.
So what can we do to help us get a good night’s sleep?
- Establish a sleep schedule which includes daily bedtime and wake up routines.
- Limit or avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and anything else that prevents you falling and staying asleep.
- Get regular exercise; though try not to do it within a couple of hours before retiring to bed.
- Wind down with a relaxing activity or ritual as it will help settle your mind and transition to sleep drowsiness.
- Eliminate as much light as possible in your room and make your sleeping place comfortable.
The takeaway? If you want to keep your testosterone levels fully charged then you need to get enough quality sleep in your daily routines. Learn more about hacking your sleep by visiting this post (Sleeping Hacks For increased sex drive and testosterone levels).