Intuitively, it makes sense that more sleep means higher testosterone.
Think about the last time you got a full 8+ hours of sleep:
You woke up feeling refreshed and energetic, and probably with a rock-hard boner as well - all signs of high testosterone.
In today's society of constant stimulation, we've come to consider sleep more a luxury than a necessity. We believe that being successful entails working harder, sleeping less, and the notion that we can sleep when we're dead. This could not be further from the truth...
High quality sleep fortifies your immune system, balances your hormones, boosts your metabolism, increases physical energy, and improves the function of your brain.
- Shawn Stevenson
My aim with this article is to help you:
Let's do this.
Most of us fail to understand just how important sleep is. As a result, one out of every three American adults is chronically sleep deprived (1).
You're not healthy, unless your sleep is healthy
- Dr. William Demet
But it's not only sleep quantity that's important. Your body's testosterone secretion peaks during rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep and missing these REM episodes can lead to lower long-term testosterone levels (4).
To what extent does a lack of sleep affect testosterone levels?
The following studies break it down:
Objective: An examination of how variability in testosterone levels of elderly men (aged 64-75) can be related to objective differences in their sleep.
Methods: Morning blood samples were collected from 12 healthy male participants. Amount of nighttime sleep was determined for 6-9 days via polysomnography and wrist activity monitoring.
Results: The amount of nighttime sleep was an independent predictor of morning total and free testosterone levels.
Objective: To observe the associations of age and sleep duration with sex steroid hormones and sexual activity.
Methods: Sleep duration and sexual activity were assessed through self-administered questionnaires, and sex steroid hormone concentrations were measured via blood samples.
Results: Sleep duration, independent of age, exercise amount, and body mass, was positively associated with testosterone levels.
Objective: To study the associations of sleep deprivation with circulating level of androgens.
Methods: Blood samples were collected from 13 healthy men (aged 21-26) before and after 24-hours of being kept awake.
Results: On average, participants experienced a 30.4% decrease in circulating levels of total testosterone.
The amount of sleep you get one night determines your testosterone level the next morning. This relationship holds true even after accounting for lifestyle factors such as age, body fat, exercise amount, smoking, etc.
Less sleep per night is associated with increased levels of body fat (5, 6). Researchers have observed this relationship to hold true even after controlling for demographic, lifestyle, work, and health related factors (7).
The effects of sleep deprivation are especially detrimental during calorie restriction. In one study, researchers put subjects on a moderate calorie deficit for 14 days, during which subjects slept for either 8.5 or 5.5 hours. Subjects lost the same amount of overall weight, but the subjects that slept for 5.5 hours lost 55% less fat and 60% more muscle compared to the subjects that slept for 8.5 hours (8).
Upon digestion of carbohydrates, your body releases glucose. Glucose triggers the release of insulin, which then begins to direct the glucose molecules towards your body's cells to be used up as energy. This decreases the concentration of glucose in your blood and blood sugar levels return to within the normal range. This is how your body responds to the ingestion of carbs without sleep deprivation.
Multiple studies have shown how sleep deprivation can lead to insulin resistance (9, 10). Insulin resistance is a condition in which your body is not responding to insulin how it should. This leads to high blood sugar, and can even lead to type-2 diabetes if not properly managed.
After analyzing 10 studies, that together involved 107, 756 subjects, researchers concluded that quantity and quality of sleep consistently and significantly predicts the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (11).
The bulk of your GH is secreted shortly after you fall asleep and during the deep cycles of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (12, 13).
The longer you stay awake after dark, the harder it is to enter and stay in this state of REM sleep. The less time you spend in REM sleep, the less time your body will have to produce GH.
In 1879 Thomas Edison created the first light bulb, and in 1880 the first commercial light bulb was available.
Before 1880, the average person was sleeping for an average of 10 hours a night (14). Fast-forward to the 20th century, and that number drops to 8 hours a night. Today, the average person gets less than 7 hours of sleep.
The invention of the light bulb less than 150 years ago is a mere speck in our overall evolution as species. Our brains have not evolved to deal with the constant stimulation and light that we expose ourselves to past dark.
The following are some of the most common factors that disrupt our sleep. Think about which ones affect you the most and start taking the steps to overcome them.
Circadian rhythms are our body’s physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow the rising and setting of the sun. Electronic devices (be it your smartphone, iPad, laptop, or TV screen) emit a blue light that disrupts your circadian rhythm. Exposure to this type of blue light past dark suppresses melatonin (15), a key hormone that regulates your body clock and sleep cycles.
Research done by the phone companies themselves reveals that the more time you spend on your phone before you sleep, the longer it takes for you to enter into a state of deep sleep, and the less time you spend in that state as well (16).
Who doesn't love a warm cup of coffee? Recent figures show that 83% of Americans start their day with it. But taken at the wrong time, caffeine can significantly disrupt your sleep cycle.
What most people don't know about caffeine is that it has a half life of about 5 hours (17). This means that if you consume 400mg of caffeine at 4PM, you still have 200mg circulating in your system 5 hours later.
In one study, researchers compared the sleep disruptive affects of 400mg of caffeine consumed 0, 3, and 6 hours before bed time (18). Sleep disturbance was measured via self-reports and in-home sleep monitors. After analyzing the data, researchers found that 400mg of caffeine taken at 0, 3, and 6 hours before sleep significantly disrupts sleep. Even taking caffeine 6 hours before bed reduced sleep by an average of 1-hour.
Another point to understand is that caffeine doesn't actually give you energy, it just blocks the signals that make you tired.
While you're awake and going through your day, your brain produces a neurotransmitter called adenosine. Once adenosine levels reach a certain point, that is a signal for your body to get some rest. When you consume caffeine, it actually blocks this signal by attaching to the receptor sites in your brain originally meant for adenosine. When there is too much caffeine in your system, your body continues producing adenosine, but is unable to metabolize any of it, and responds by overworking the brain and organs. I'm sure you can see how this can be dangerous if extended over the long term.
Magnesium is an essential mineral in the human body that helps regulate energy, calm your nerves, aid digestion, relieve tense muscles, and support proper blood flow.
Magnesium is also responsible for regulating many of the hormones that promote calm and relaxation in the brain. It's no surprise, then, that one of the many symptoms of a magnesium deficiency is chronic insomnia (19).
About half of American adults suffer from a magnesium deficiency (20). In a study of 46 elderly men it was shown that, when compared to placebo, the subjects receiving 400mg of magnesium for 8-weeks slept longer, had an easier time falling asleep, and also had improved concentrations of cortisol and melatonin (21).
Most people can attest to the fact that having a few drinks before bed makes you drowsy. Research confirms that drinking alcohol can help you fall asleep faster. But there's a caveat:
Although a drink may help you fall asleep quicker, it significantly inhibits REM sleep (22). REM sleep is considered the most restorative phase of sleep and a disruption of it can rob you of your focus and energy the next day.
Another, more obvious, sleep disruption from alcohol is having to urinate in the middle of the night. Getting up to go to the toilet interrupts your sleep, and waking up from alcohol induced sleep also makes it more difficult to fall back into the deep sleep stages needed for recovery.
Eating a heavy meal fires up your metabolism, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Your digestive system is 70-80% of your immune system (23). So if you eat a heavy meal right before sleeping, your gut will begin to direct most of its resources towards digestion rather than towards recovery.
Exercise actually boosts sleep as long as you don’t do it too close to your ideal sleeping time.
Research on the effect of exercise on sleep found morning workouts to be ideal (24). When compared to the participants that exercised later in the day (1PM and 7PM), the participants that worked out at 7AM slept longer, spent more time in deep sleep, and woke up far fewer times after the onset of sleep.
The problem with exercising later in the day is that it jacks up your core body temperature, which can take 5-6 hours to bring back down again.
How often have you gotten into bed only to get stuck in an endless loop of internal chatter about the who's, what's, when's, and how's of your life?
Don't worry, we've all been there.
A proven way to reduce anxiety is via meditation.
Although the practice of meditation has been picking up steam in the western world, many people still have a "woo-woo" impression of it. I'm here to tell you that a meditation practice can be as simple as focusing on your breath for 5 minutes.
Research has shown that meditating in the morning results in better and faster sleep at night (25) .
By now, it should be clear that a good night of sleep is essential if you want to function near your peak potential.
In this section, I will go over how to fall asleep faster and deeper to ensure a steady surge of testosterone through the night.
Most of us get too much exposure to artificial light at night, but not enough exposure to natural sunlight during the day.
In a study of 49 office workers, researchers observed the impact that daylight exposure had on the participants' subjective well-being and sleep quality (26). 27 of the participants worked in windowless environments while 22 of them worked in an environment with significantly more sunlight. Results revealed that the workers without exposure to natural light slept for an average of 46 minutes less than the workers with exposure. 46 minutes may not sound like much, but compounded over the long term it adds up. But that's not all. The workers that got exposure to sunlight scored better on tests of physical function, general health, vitality, social function and mental health.
Getting exposure to sunlight during the early hours of the day triggers your body to produce more daytime hormones (like cortisol) and properly coordinates the release of nighttime hormones (like melatonin).
Ideally, try and get out in the sun during the prime hours between 6AM-8:30AM.
We sleep much better in a pitch black environment. And by pitch black, I mean that you can't see your hand in front of your face.
Our skin actually has receptors that pick up light (27). This means that if there's any source of light in your room, your skin is picking it up and passing on the signal to your brain that can mess with your sleep.
Studies have shown that exposure to light before bedtime shortened melatonin duration by 90% and suppressed melatonin release by upwards of 50% (28).
Melatonin is so much more than just a hormone that helps you get to sleep. Some of its other benefits include:
Melatonin is an all-round super hormone. If it has to do with health, you can be sure that melatonin can help.
When you're trying to snooze, your body naturally reduces it's core temperature in order to induce sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you keep your bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees fahrenheit to help facilitate a deep restful night of sleep (34). Keeping your room temperature outside of this range may cause restlessness and may also negatively affect REM sleep.
On a side note:
Insomniacs have consistently been shown to have jacked up core body temperatures (35).
So if you find yourself constantly tossing and turning in bed, make sure that it's not because of your room not being the right temperature.
If you can set your sleep schedule in alignment with the rising and setting of the sun, that would be ideal for your hormones. But of course, this can be quite difficult for most people.
The next best option is to consistently go to bed at the same time every night.
If you use an alarm clock to wake up every morning, you are most likely sleep deprived. A smarter option is to set an alarm for 20-30 minutes before the time you want to be asleep, say midnight, that will allow you to naturally wake up the next day 8-9 hours later.
Being strategic about what you wear to bed can help improve the quality of your sleep. The core idea is to make sure you're wearing something that supports rather than inhibits your body's natural drop in core temperature.
You could try sleeping naked, but if that's something you're not used make sure that your sleep outfit is light, loose, and comfortable. The last thing you want to do is wear heavy PJ's and a tight underwear to bed. That would only mess with your body's temperature regulation and overheat your family jewels.
And finally, make sure that your sleep environment is mellow, i.e. don't use your bedroom for much other than sleep and sex. Research suggests that this teaches your brain to associate your bed with sleep. This makes sense, but I've had a childhood habit to read every night before going to sleep. It doesn't mess with my sleep, as far as I know, and I make sure to only read under this bulb that does not emit blue light.
If you're serious about optimizing your testosterone levels, energy, productivity, and overall quality of life, then you have to make sleep a priority.
We've just gone over a large chunk of information, but I don't want you to feel overwhelmed. Right now, just figure out how you can add one extra hour to your daily sleep.
"What is my most important goal in life right now?"
Once you've answered this, ask yourself:
"What are my top three distractions that are not helping me reach this goal?"
After answering these two questions it should be abundantly clear what activities you should reduce/eliminate from your life. Doing so will not only improve the quality of your sleep, but will help you achieve your vision that much faster as well.
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