Sleep & Testosterone: The Ultimate Guide
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 constant stimulation society, 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 your brain’s function.
- Shawn Stevenson
My aim with this article is to help you:
- Grasp the value of a good night’s sleep (not only for your testosterone but for your overall health and quality of life as well).
- Identify the most common factors that are disrupting your sleep (and how to fix them).
- Learn how to fall asleep better, faster, and deeper every single night.
Let’s do this.
How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Life
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
Sleep Deprivation Lowers Your Testosterone
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. The 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.
Men who slept for 8-hours had more than double the amount of total testosterone compared to the men who slept for less than 5-hours.
Objective: 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.
Men who slept for less than 4-hours had 60% lower total testosterone than men who slept for more than 8-hours.
Objective: Study the associations of sleep deprivation with man’s 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.
Hormonal concentrations were plotted before (III/8) and after (III/9) a 24-hour restless period.
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.
Sleep Deprivation Increases Your Body Fat
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 those who slept for 5.5 hours lost 55% less fat and 60% more muscle than the subjects who slept for 8.5 hours (8).
Sleep Deprivation Increases Your Blood Sugar
Upon digestion of carbohydrates, your body releases glucose. Glucose triggers insulin release, 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 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 involved 107,756 subjects, researchers concluded that quantity and quality of sleep consistently and significantly predict the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (11).
Sleep Deprivation Decreases Growth Hormone Production
The longer you stay awake after dark, the harder it is to enter and remain in this state of REM sleep. The less time you spend in REM sleep, the less time your body will have to produce GH.
7 Factors That Are Killing Your Sleep (And How To Fix Them)
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 light bulb’s invention 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 steps to overcome them.
Circadian rhythms are our body’s physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow the sun’s rising and setting. 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 critical 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).
- Keep a 2-3 hour gap between the last time you look at a screen and the time you intend on going to bed.
- Download the f.lux app on your laptop to reduce blue light emission.
- Turn your phone on nightshift mode.
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 disruptive sleep effects of 400mg of caffeine consumed 0, 3, and 6 hours before bedtime (18). Sleep disturbance was measured via self-reports and in-home sleep monitors. 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 your brain’s receptor sites originally meant for adenosine. When there is too much caffeine in your system, your body continues producing adenosine but cannot metabolize any of it. Your body then responds by overworking the brain and organs. I’m sure you can see how this can be dangerous if extended over the long term.
- Set a caffeine curfew that’s at least 8 hours before you go to bed.
- To maximize your coffee’s effectiveness, cycle it by going two days on and three days off.
3. Magnesium Deficiency
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 magnesium deficiency (20). In a study of 46 elderly men compared to placebo, the subjects receiving 400mg of magnesium for 8-weeks slept longer, had an easier time falling asleep, and improved cortisol and melatonin levels (21).
- Eat more magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, black beans, and almonds.
- Order a magnesium lotion and keep it by your bedside.
- Just before bed, apply it in the center of your chest, around your neck, and shoulders.
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 sleep disruption from alcohol is having to urinate in the middle of the night. Getting up to the toilet interrupts sleep and waking up from alcohol-induced sleep also makes it more challenging to fall back into the deep sleep stages needed for recovery.
- Keep a 3-4 hour gap between your last drink and when you intend on going to bed.
- Drink more water to help flush out the metabolic waste from alcohol.
- Drink one 8-ounce glass of water for every alcoholic drink to ensure hydration.
5. Big Meals
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.
- Have your last meal 2-4 hours before you intend on going to sleep.
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). Compared to the participants who exercised later in the day (1PM and 7PM), the participants who 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, taking 5-6 hours to bring back down again.
- Keep a minimum of 4-hours between when you workout and your ideal sleep time.
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).
- Step 1: Choose a calming point of focus. This can be your breath, a sound, a prayer, a phrase, etc.
- Step 2: Relax. Keep your attention on your point of focus. When you notice your mind wandering, just take a deep breath and return to the focus point.
Following this process for even 5-minutes per day can significantly enhance the quality of your life.
How to Sleep Properly and Wake Up Refreshed Everyday
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.
Soak Some Sunshine
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 with 49 office workers, researchers observed the impact of daylight exposure on the participants’ subjective well-being and sleep quality (26). 27 of the participants worked in windowless environments, while 22 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 exposed to sunlight scored better on physical function tests, 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.
Sleep In Complete Darkness
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). If there’s any source of light in your room, your skin is picking it up. It passes on the signal to your brain screws up your sleep.
Studies had 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:
- Fortifies the immune system (29)
- Inhibits the proliferation of prostate cancer cells (30)
- Strengthens the heart (31)
- Natural reliever of chronic pain (32)
- Natural stress reliever (33)
Melatonin is an all-around super hormone. If it has to do with health, you can be sure that melatonin can help.
Adjust Your Thermostat
When you’re trying to snooze, your body naturally reduces its core temperature to induce sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you keep your bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit to help facilitate a deeply 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 frequently tossing and turning in bed, make sure that it’s not because of your room not being the right temperature.
Maintain A Consistent Sleeping Schedule
If you can set your sleep schedule in alignment with the sun’s rising and setting, 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 your 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.
Dress for the Occasion
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 to, make sure that your sleep outfit is light, loose, and comfortable. The last thing you want to do is wear heavy PJ’s and tight underwear to bed. That would only mess with your body’s temperature regulation and overheat your family jewels.
Make Your Bedroom a Sanctuary
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 of reading 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 a bulb that does not emit blue light.
Bringing It All Together
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.